Written by Federal Mfg.

In 2011, Cloverland Farms Dairy of Baltimore embarked on an ambitious modernization campaign by replacing four aging milk filling lines with three state-of-the-art lines. The three new lines fill gallon and half-gallon jugs and cartons 50% faster than the four lines they replaced. The increase in productivity lowered the dairy’s production cost and made the company more competitive, enabling Cloverland to win new accounts. This was the largest capital project for the dairy in the past decade.

For the new filling lines, Cloverland standardized on Federal Mfg. filling machines. Cloverland had worked with Federal Mfg., a Pro Mach business, previously. Cloverland management believed that Federal Mfg.’s technology, customer support, clean-in-place system, and price delivered the best value in the industry. The new lines would also include Federal Mfg. capping technology, conveyors from Dairy Conveyor, case packers from Statco, a new, energy-efficient blow molding machine from Uniloy to replace an older model, three new labeling machines from WS Packaging Group, controls from Rockwell Automation, and related plumbing and wiring infrastructure required for a dairy filling line.

Working weekends to install new fillers in the milk processing plant

The transition to the three new filling lines took place one weekend a month over a three-month period – August through October 2011. On a Saturday night, during a transition weekend, an old line was removed and a new one installed. By Tuesday morning filled gallon milk jugs were coming off the new line and being conveyed to the cooler. The following two months the same one-weekend installation process was repeated. All of the suppliers and contactors worked in close harmony knowing that they had less than three days to install a fully functioning line. 

Federal Mfg. fillers had 30 filling valves and a 66-inch pitch diameter filler bowl, among the largest machines the company had manufactured at the time. It required a few weeks of training and familiarity with the system for each new line to ramp up to optimum production of about 115 gallons per minute. The plant gained extra floor space by removing one line and this makes for a more open environment.

Changeovers were cut in half after milk plant installed new fillers

The new controls and human machine interface (HMI) were generations ahead of the old system. Operators found that the new system was easier and more intuitive to operate and maintain. Changeover between gallon and half-gallon jugs requires from 30 to 45 minutes. The old system took more than an hour for changeover. The inline clean-in-place system is meeting the dairy’s food safety requirements. Federal Mfg. machines meet the 3-A sanitary standard and carry the 3-A certification. Because the dairy became more competitive and won new business there has been no net change in the number of production workers. 

The dairy also fills gallons and half-gallons of juice on the new line. Older Federal, H. H. Franz Company, and Evergreen Packaging machines are utilized for dairy and juice filling of quart, pint, half-pint, six-ounce, and four-ounce sizes of plastic and paper containers.

Dairy plans warehouse automation project

Upcoming projects at Cloverland will include greater automation of the warehouse and cutting costs out of the delivery system through routing software and handheld computers for route personnel.

“A dairy is a commodity business with costs going up and per capita consumption shrinking,” said Jim Cella, General Manager, Cloverland Dairy. “The only way we can keep moving ahead, stay profitable, and grow the business is to drive down cost. That is what our filling line modernization was all about.”