Fonterra cheese jewel on target
The $73 million expansion of the Fonterra mozzarella factory at Clandeboye near Timaru is on track to go online in August 2015.
More than 360 contractors and tradespeople have been working on the project this off-season, with the majority from local companies. Most of the construction materials were bought within New Zealand and the rest manufactured offshore. At any one time there are between 75 and 100 people on the project.
More than 25 new staff members will be required for the factory once it is complete. They are being employed in staggered groups to begin their training.
Construction manager Peter Shannon said the mozzarella plant was considered one of "Fonterra's jewels in the crown", and a lot of secrecy surrounded its intellectual property. The Timaru Herald was allowed a peek but only in strictly specified areas.
Some local workers had upskilled for the project, with safety an important aspect.
"There have been no deaths, only minor injuries, in 60,000 to 70,000 hours of construction," Shannon said.
Collaboration among the highly-skilled groups of workers had seen a team approach, according to Shannon.
"I'm extremely pleased with progress ... there's been a real collaborative approach. The whole team has a vested interest in the project."
Clandeboye operations manager Steve McKnight said the mozzarella market had increased worldwide. The extension will double the size of the factory, enabling 34,000 metric tonnes of the cheese to be produced per year. Current capacity is 16,000 metric tonnes.
"In Sao Paolo, Brazil, 1.5 million pizzas are made or sold every Sunday," McKnight said of the demand for the cheese.
Planning for the project started last year and is being carried out around the existing factory, which is still operating.
Other projects in progress are the $11m replacement of the old air heater on the D2 powder plant and normal ongoing maintenance to ensure the plant maintains its desired high standards.
The Timaru Herald