Fonterra's gleaming new $23 million coolstore at its Whareroa site near Hawera is the pride and joy of the staff who work in them.
The state-of-the-art building has been completed in time for Fonterra to store product manufactured from the 14.5 million litres of milk which arrives at Whareroa daily during the dairy season peak at this time of year.
Construction started in January and more than 500 people worked on the project.
An official opening will be held at a function on-site on November 29.
The distribution centre's staff of 50 were proud that the company had invested in a new and upmarket storage facility at Whareroa, Brad Kempton, the company's assistant distribution manager at the site, told the Taranaki Daily News.
He said staff appreciated being able to take the best possible care of products at the company's second largest site, where 400,000 tonnes of product - 12 per cent of Fonterra's production - are manufactured each year.
Fonterra New Zealand logistics director Mark Leslie said the Whareroa project would improve the efficiency of the company's supply chain. It followed the recent establishment of distribution centres in Darfield, Mosgiel and Hamilton and the expansion of the centre at its Kauri site in Northland.
South Taranaki district mayor Ross Dunlop is enthusiastic about the impact of the project on South Taranaki.
He said the project was positive for the district and he was pleased to see Fonterra was continuing to invest in Taranaki, an area that was a mainstay of dairying in New Zealand.
The project was another example of development in South Taranaki, which included the establishment of the TSB Hub in Hawera and Origin Energy's Kupe production station in 2010, expansion at Ballance Agri- Nutrients plant at Kapuni this year and Shell Todd Oil Service's forthcoming drilling project at Kapuni, he said.
The 4000 square metre Whareroa facility features six new coolrooms that can store 14,870 pallets, or about 12,500 tonnes of mozzarella and cheddar.
The cheese is exported or it undergoes further processing into shelf-ready packages at Fonterra's Eltham site.
"With peak milk being processed, it's good to have Whareroa's rooms up and running to help manage the additional volumes," Leslie said.
Three of the six rooms, each measuring 32m x 7m x 11m, feature an innovative racking system which allows access to the product at both ends of the storage racks.
Reach trucks containing a computer, keyboard and scanner to read barcodes place the pallets at the front of an 11-metre-high automated racking system that shifts them around on robotic trolleys.
Leslie said the system sped up the product selection process.
"This is a first for Fonterra and is an exciting development for the supply chain management of cheese."
The cool rooms mature the cheese at temperatures ranging from -10 degrees Celsius to as high as 20C over 40 to 60 days, depending on specification.
Features to enhance the safety of the new facility include sprinkler mains and ammonia piping located in a services gallery above the ceiling of its corridors away from the product and the forklift operating areas. Flame- retardant and water-resistant wall panels and insulated doors maintain the temperature of the coolrooms efficiently.
Relief valves control pressure differentials caused by the different temperatures in the coolrooms and pipes under the floor contain glycol to prevent freezing. A load-out truck bay with a carbon monoxide monitoring system is maintained at a temperature of 10C.
Whareroa's two previous stores, which were 20 years old, were demolished a year ago to make way for the new facility.
The 7000-pallet capacity of the old stores was reduced to 2000 by moisture freezing under the floor and creating bulges known as "frost heave", which buckled the racking and created a hazard for forklift operators.
Kempton said storing the site's cheese in the past few years had been a challenge.
It had to be stored at the company's other North Island sites in the Manawatu, Bay of Plenty and Waikato as capacity in the old stores reduced, and during construction.
Fonterra's lower North Island general manager of operations Scott Walls, of Hawera, said it was more economical to build a new store than repair an unsound and inefficient building.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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