Cheese manufacturing can be broken into two sub-segments, cheese making, and cheese processing. Each of these sub-segments can produce cheese that is intended for direct consumer purchase or institutional/commercial customers.
Dependent on the business plans of manufacturers, these two sub-segments could potentially be located in the same facility. We have previously covered the manufacturing process of cheese making but like all manufacturing processes, there are regulatory concerns, business issues, and production challenges that arise. In this industry segment, we will focus on the specific concerns surrounding the cheese-making industry.
The U.S. dairy industry is highly regulated. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has overall regulatory authority in the U.S for the production of safe foods, including cheese. Additionally, many cheese manufacturers voluntarily participate in a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) whereby cheese plants are regularly inspected and approved by that federal agency. Lastly, individual states also perform regulatory oversight of cheese manufacturing facilities and dairy farms.
NSF, 3-A, and ANSI are notable third party agencies that have joined together to create a joint standard of design requirements for cheesemaking equipment and conveyors. This NSF/3A/ANSI Standard is administered by third parties, but once the equipment is approved as meeting the standard it is automatically accepted by the FDA and USDA. At this time, there are no belt conveyor manufacturers who have equipment that is certified to this standard.
Several 3rd other party agencies have similar – but not identical – guidelines and standards for production. The customers of the manufacturer may require certificates of compliance or inspection documenting compliance with SQF, GFSI, BRC, or other standards.
From a food safety standpoint, the two principal concerns are preventing microbial contamination and ingredient cross-contamination that can result in undeclared allergens in a product.
Cheesemakers face several overarching business concerns that will influence their buying decisions.
- The volatility of milk prices can have a dramatic impact on the scheduling of capital equipment projects. This tends to have a higher impact on high volume producers than smaller, artisan producers.
- Several European countries are making efforts to trademark the names of cheeses that originated in their countries. When they are successful this means that North American producers cannot use the product names that are recognized by the public. In turn, this impacts consumer demand for these products due to uncertainty about the quality or origin of the cheeses. With uncertain demand companies are more cautious about capital expenses.
- Current labor markets are very tight. Manufacturers are having a hard time finding not only skilled labor for positions such as maintenance or supervision but also for direct labor on the production floor. Production areas need to be set up to allow the workers they have to be as productive as possible. Turnover is frequent and work areas need to be reconfigured frequently to accommodate the dynamic number of workers on the line.
- Ergonomic issues are avoiding employee turnover and worker injuries. Repetitive motion injuries are common for long term workers. This can result in worker’s compensation claims and rising insurance premiums. The work can be very physically demanding if workspaces are configured poorly, which also impacts employee turnover.
- The need to provide a wide variety of products for different customers creates a higher risk of cross-contamination. Product changeovers happen more frequently and the lines must be cleaned effectively. This process needs to be as fast as possible to ensure maximum production is available.
- Waste issues are a drain on profitability. Production systems must be set up to add their ingredients with the least amount of spillage or damaged product. During sanitation cycles, water usage and chemical usage are costs that need to be managed. Equipment that is difficult to clean results in longer sanitation cycles and accompanying labor costs. It also means that the factory uses more chemicals and pays higher surcharges on their wastewater stream.
Due to the saltwater rinse required to cure many types of cheese as it moves through the extruder, a salty mist often coats the entirety of cheese production rooms with a thick condensation. Cheesemakers have to be concerned about selecting material that will hold up under these conditions.
Production capacity is directly tied to space concerns. Almost all manufacturing processes are time-dependent and are directly tied to holding periods. There is a strong correlation between production throughput and space. As a result, the effective use of production space is critical.
Factors Influencing Purchasing Decisions
The cheese industry is perhaps the industry most concerned with hygienic design. While there are no specific 3-A standards for the type of conveyor Dorner manufacturers, customers tend to request that conveyor manufacturers comply with 3-A design guidelines and principles for weld and surface finishes.
Operator safety is very important. Customers are interested in finding the best balance between open designs for ease of sanitation and having sufficient guarding so operators cannot be harmed by the conveyor system. Lineworkers wear lab coats and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), which have a higher chance of getting caught on moving belts or rotating shafts.
Cleanability is another key consideration. Cheesemakers want to reliably sanitize their conveyors and ancillary equipment thoroughly in the shortest amount of time, using the minimum amount of water and chemical agents. To streamline the sanitation process it is commonplace for the cleaning team to run the belts during the sanitation cycle – even if they are raised from the bed with belt lifters.
Speed and ease of teardown and re-assembly are also crucial. Customers prefer systems that can be broken down and re-assembled intuitively, utilizing interchangeable parts that do not require specific orientation.
How Dorner Delivers Value for the Customer
AquaGuard and AquaPruf Ultimate conveyors offer a wide range of belt options to address the specific needs of the customer’s application.
AquaPruf and AquaPruf Ultimate conveyors are designed to allow users to thoroughly and effectively clean the conveyor in the shortest amount of time using only as much water and chemical agents as necessary.
Tool-free disassembly eliminates the need to bring in tools that could carry contaminants from outside the room.
Robust conveyor framework and supports stand up to the most demanding production environments.
Patented sprocket alignment guides make it easier and faster to break down and re-assemble modular belt conveyors.
Solid conveyor frames with cut-outs for cleaning balance accessibility and safety for operators
Dorner equipment designs comply with very stringent regulatory standards – including options available to comply with 3-A.
Dorner Is also the only supplier that backs their equipment with a 10-year warranty.
In addition to Dorner’s standard products, there is a dedicated Engineered Systems Group that can modify standards, create entirely new equipment, or integrate third-party equipment to ensure the right technical solution for the customer’s specific requirements.
Dorner has extensive experience providing cheese production systems. Our engineers understand the unique systems needed for these very specific types of applications. Dorner Customers Include:
- Southwest Cheese
- Marathon Cheese
- Schuman Cheese
- Mullins Cheese
- Relco (OEM of Cheesemaking equipment)
- Glanbia Cheese
- Baker Cheese
- And More!
Dorner is one of the very few conveyor companies that are ISO 9001:2015 Certified. This means independent authorities have verified that Dorner has established and maintains a quality management system for the Design and Manufacture of Precision Conveying Equipment for Industrial, Packaging and Sanitary Conveyor Automation Needs. Customers are assured that Dorner will consistently deliver high quality, reliable equipment – especially when it is a unique solution for a customer’s requirements. If you are interested in Dorner’s Sanitary Conveyors download our new Ebook or contact us today!