Security of supply at our sites
Once again, the Uelzena Group faced unexpected challenges in 2022. The strategic focus of the company to primarily invest in resource-efficient production that generates lower emissions, was again put to the test in the past business year due to current world events. Despite these demands on the market, our climate objectives, such as a reduction in carbon footprint, were consistently pursued and implemented.
.Energy-efficient production at the cutting edge of technology
The Uelzena Group keeps its production equipment at the cutting edge of technology so as to limit negative effects on the environment as much as possible. Year after year, the group invests in measures at its four sites to make production more efficient, productive and cleaner. A welcome effect: These measures improve the input-output ratio, reduce the energy and resources used per product unit, and the entire Uelzena Group produces fewer emissions.
In the spring of 2022, all group sites were confronted with an anticipated shortfall in energy supply. With the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the political consequences, our primary focus was to guarantee that the raw milk delivered daily to our plants could be processed. This led to modifications being made at the milk-processing sites where boiler burners were converted to optionally burn heating oil. At the same time, we created the corresponding storage capacity for heating oil to ensure self-sufficient operation for a certain period of time.
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in relation to production volume in kg (intensity). The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to total tonnage in the base year 2012 was 43.4 percent.
.Investment projects largely implemented
Investments in our production projects were largely upheld. The most recent major project in Uelzen, the spray-drying plant to manufacture food and infant ingredients, is at the commissioning stage. Our new wastewater pre-treatment plant, which reduces wastewater load by up to 15 percent, was completed in 2022. This will significantly decrease the COD value over the next few years. Renovation of the entire supply pipe system for this section completed this project at the Uelzen site. A new collection truck cleaning system also began in Uelzen in the past business year. The milk collection trucks of our cooperative members can continue on their collection route immediately after discharging the raw milk and successful cleaning, which has logistical and cost benefits.
„As manager of this state-of-the-art spray-drying plant, I am proud that we have been able to handle its commissioning so successfully with all the various departments. We are setting new standards in efficiency and environmental protection for our company using cutting-edge technology and innovative solutions.“
Benjamin Bücker, Project Manager Tower 12 a. Pack-Center Manager, Uelzena eG
Water, waste, and wastewater
The sustainable handling of resources is reflected in many of our sites’ projects. In Warmsen, potential savings could be achieved in relation to the wastewater load by optimising internal operational processes. A special purification plant and dual use of steam also led to the desired reduction in fresh water consumption. In Ratzeburg, the commissioned agglomeration plant and associated consolidation of multiple production steps also achieved savings in the production process and therefore a reduction in energy consumption. Older plant technology that was energy and labour intensive was decommissioned at this site.
Since autumn last year, the milk collection for the raw milk requirements at our cheese dairy in Bismark has been further optimised. Since October 2022, the entire Uelzena Group no longer takes part in certification according to the VLOG standard. Dropping the separate raw milk collection that would otherwise be necessary makes for more efficient trips and reduces environmental pollution. Expansion of the Altmark cheese dairy in Bismark pressed ahead in the past year as scheduled and will move into the implementation phase in the coming years.
Outlook for 2023
The first successes should be visible in 2023, or the following year at the latest, particularly regarding the saving potential generated by the wastewater treatment. Starting regular operation of the “Tower 12” spray-drying plant is also expected to provide a marked increase in contract drying volumes. At the Bismark site, the primary objective is to carry out the cheese dairy expansion. A planned investment for the Warmsen site will also increase capacity for speciality products.
The requirements for a medium-sized company in the food industry, such as the Uelzena Group, to produce sustainable and value-adding products, will continue to be decisive for our future investments. We will continue to pursue this objective even in times of shortages in the procurement markets, inflationary prices, rising salaries of skilled labour and growing societal demands.
The Uelzena Group is a medium-sized industrial enterprise that predominantly processes milk raw materials into food products such as butter, milk powder or cheese. In 2021, we produced and sold a total of 236,000 tonnes of products – most of which were made from milk. Refining is an intense process and requires a high input of natural resources including fresh water and natural gas as an energy carrier. At the same time our sites produce greenhouse gases, wastewater and waste.
Examples: Greenhouse gases. With CO2 emissions of just 31,000 tonnes in 2021, the Uelzena Group is not one of the major emitters nationwide. CO2 emissions per tonne produced could be reduced by 48 percent since 2012. Nevertheless, Uelzena is committed to contributing towards reaching climate protection goals. The German government has decided to become climate neutral by 2045.
The Uelzena Group keeps its production equipment at the cutting edge of technology in order to limit negative effects on the environment as much as possible. Year after year, the Uelzena Group invests in measures to make its four sites more efficient, productive and cleaner. A welcome effect: The measures improve the input-output ratio, reduce the use of energy and resources per product unit whilst the entire Uelzena Group produces fewer emissions.
Energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and wastewater are the key sustainability topics for our production. In particular the company’s stakeholders are interested in learning how the Uelzena Group handles these topics. Stakeholders include food industry customers, employees, authorities and the shareholders of Uelzena Group as our members as well as residents living close to our production sites.
The production department actively pursues relevant sustainability topics. Our objectives are to continuously reduce emissions and consumption of resources per ton of product produced, while increasing productivity at the same time. In order to achieve these objectives, several measures have been developed and implemented.
Our sustainable production strategy – overview on our targets and measures
Production and environment
- The Uelzena Group aims to reduce the emissions of undesired substances into the environment. These emissions include greenhouse gases, wastewater and waste.
- The consumption of natural resources such as fresh water or gas must be continuously reduced.
- Efficiency must also continue to be improved.
Energy and climate
- Some examples of measures that were implemented for increasing energy efficiency include new heat recovery systems, high-performance electric motors and energy-efficient LED lights.
- Cogeneration units at Uelzen and Bismark generate heat, steam and electricity that we consume in a highly efficient way. Efficiency is 84 percent at each plant; this is 14 percent above the legally defined efficiency target for these types of power plants. Moreover, electricity surpluses are also fed into the public grid for a fee.
- Based on its certified energy management system according to ISO 50001, the Uelzena Group has improved the energy efficiency at all of its sites.
Wastewater and water
- Water from production processes is recycled, and always under strict observance of the legal regulations. We even reuse condensed steam for the generation of steam.
- Optimisation of the cleaning processes in the evaporator area.
- At our Warmsen site, an on-site sewage treatment plant cleans the wastewater from the facility so that it has the quality of river water.
- At our other sites, we discharge our wastewater into local municipal sewage plants. The wastewater quantity as well as the wastewater load are constantly optimised using a management process and on-site measures.
- The Uelzena Group separates waste and recycles recyclable materials such as paper, wood and plastics.
- Added to that, excess waste from deliveries is prevented if at all possible by way of respective agreements with suppliers.
A multi-year improvement programme was introduced in production. The name of this programme is “Production OC 2025” with its focus placed on work and communication processes as well as on organising cooperative work. Objectives: To increase employees’ motivation and competencies and to trigger continuous improvement processes. The programme was introduced at the Uelzen site in 2016, Bismark followed in 2017 and in Ratzeburg the introduction took place in 2022.