120m Euros for the expansion of the company
Since the end of 2017, the Uelzena Group has and continues to invest heavily in new production equipment as well as in technical and constructional remodeling projects. In this way we are preparing for the future in order to continue to fulfil the cooperative's mission as a reliable milk buyer. Simultaneously we are increasing the performance of the Uelzena Group for the benefit of our customers.
Bright headlights bathe the road and the dark surroundings in daylight. A large heavy-duty crane slowly lifts a huge metal monstrosity over a railway bridge on arm-thick steel cables. What looks like a space capsule is an industrial filter the size of a small townhouse: 15 meters high, 6 meters in diameter and a weight of 20 tons. This is a cumbersome operation, but inevitable because the bridge is too low for the heavy goods vehicle and its cargo.
It was at the end of August 2018 when this logistical challenge was part of the project’s agenda. It was the most spectacular part of a long journey from the production site in Poland via ship and truck to our Uelzen site where the new industrial filter was integrated into milk powder tower no. 5.
The new filter and the reconstruction of tower no. 5 are a part of the largest development program of the Uelzena Group. Over a period of several years, the company will invest 120m Euros into new equipment, plants and a modernized facility.
More farmers, more productive farms
The investments into new technology, storage and production capacities are based on three pillars:
The annual milk quantity supplied by the members of the Uelzena Group is constantly growing. Many milk producers continue to increase their production capacities and our collecting cooperatives have accepted additional milk producers. Because of the close dialogue between Uelzena eG and the member dairies and milk producers, the forecast reliability in terms of the quantity delivered is extraordinarily high.
The Uelzena Group intends to further develop the added value of its range of cheeses and whey as well as butter and skimmed milk powder. Production capacities will be expanded so that products can be manufactured in larger quantities and in even better quality. In addition to improving quality, optimized marketing will also ensure that better value can be created.
The cheese making plant in Bismark (Saxony-Anhalt), which started operation in 1992, requires a general renovation. Within the scope of this replacement investment, the capacity will be increased from 32,000 tons to 48,000 tons as the first step.
"The expansion of the cheese making facility in Bismark is the basis for the regional processing of milk and at the same time a viable perspective for our milk producers."
Frank Schuppert, Farmer and Chairman of the Board at Uelzena eG
UPGRADING TOWER No. 5
Modernized milk drying and new storage
One important sub-project of the investment program is the modernization of the milk drying facility in Uelzen. In 2018, the new exhaust air filter was integrated in tower no. 5 and tested. In 2019, two new evaporators will be put into operation for pre-drying the milk in a newly erected building. In order to allow both evaporators to work smoothly, about 7,000 meters of pipelines and 5,000 components including pumps, valves and heat exchangers will have to be installed. For finalizing this sub-project, the bagging line will also be renovated in 2019.
For 14m Euros, the Uelzen production site will then be equipped with completely upgraded and expanded drying technology. The annual production capacity will rise from 18,000 tons to about 22,000 tons of milk powder - this includes new specific low-spore product qualities as requested by customers. The optimized milk drying facilities is completed by a new high-care filling line. More important benefits: Dust emissions from the plant will be clearly reduced (less than 10 milligrams per kilogram), as will noise emissions (reduction by 15%), while energy efficiency is improved.
Visible from afar in the north of Uelzen is the new high-bay warehouse, which was put into operation in early 2019: It is 37 meters high, 122 meters long and offers about 13,000 pallet places. Loading and unloading is carried out fully automatically. The automated process allows up to 1,300 pallets to be handled per day, which is ten percent of the entire storage capacity. Costs for the high-bay warehouse amounted to 17m Euros. In return, the Uelzena Group will save the rent for external warehouses and the costs for truck transportation that were previously required between the various storage areas. CO2 emissions from truck transportation are also eliminated - 29 tons a year in all.
THE NEW EVAPORATORS
Everything is new: Spray-drying technology for Uelzena, agglomeration for Ratzeburg
The non-milk business (instant beverages, contract drying, health food products) will remain to be a significant part of the corporate strategy. In order to generate further growth, 2019 has seen Uelzena start to plan the construction of a new state-of-the-art spray-drying tower no. 12 that can be used for vitamins and minerals, for example.
In 2019, another large investment project started at the Ratzeburg site (H. Schoppe & Schultz GmbH & Co. KG): the expansion of the agglomeration process. This process involves the finest powder particles being "bonded" together with water vapor to form larger particles in order to obtain, for example, defined properties in terms of solubility, metering capability and free-flowing characteristics.
Apart from the agglomeration plant, other plans include the expansion of the production area, the modernization and supplementation of the packaging lines and the mirroring of the warehouse. When everything is completed, three agglomeration lines will be in operation at the site - with an additional production capacity of more than 5,500 tons. This will increase the total annual capacity of instant beverages at the Uelzena and Ratzeburg sites to about 40,000 tons. It is also planned to agglomerate not only cocoa powder at Ratzeburg but milk powder as well.
Success factor for all projects: Employees
The current investment program includes a lot of planning. This is because - whether small or large - each sub-project is compiled of several stages - from planning and tendering to construction and commissioning. As expected, the large projects in Uelzen have commanded an extraordinary amount of resources. In addition to the Uelzena employees from production and technology, many external contractors have also been working on the major construction sites, including facade builders, roofers, pipefitters, painters and tile setters.
The cornerstones for the implementation of the Uelzena Group's economic expansion have thus been laid. The goal is to create sustainable and durable structures for a regional, medium-sized dairy company. The following motto always applies: small enough to respond flexibly to requirements, large enough to work professionally.
THE HIGH-BAY WAREHOUSE
OVERVIEW ON KEY INDICATORS OF THE GROUP
From the second half of 2017
Development of a medium-term strategy and investment plan (multi-year investment plan) for the entire Uelzena Group - including all business units, production sites and managers
End of 2017
Start of construction of the high-bay warehouse in Uelzen, which offers room for about 13,000 pallets
Start of construction of the milk powder drying technology (two new evaporators and one filter plant)
Completion and commissioning of the fully automated high-bay warehouse at the Uelzen site
Completion and commissioning of the modernized milk-drying equipment at the Uelzen site
1. half of 2019
Start of planning the construction of tower no. 12 in Uelzen
Start of planning the expansion of the agglomeration capacity at the Ratzeburg site
2. half of 2019
Start of construction to expand the cheese making plant in Bismark