Food Engineering

Creamery combats dusty whey powder with industrial vacuum

March 1, 2010
Using the right tool gets the job done in half the time.



Ellsworth Co-op Creamery replaced its shop-style vacuums with a Nilfisk CFM 118 industrial vacuum to collect excess whey powder that settled on the floor and machinery. Source: Nilfisk.


Ellsworth Co-op Creamery, located in Ellsworth, WI, is a 99-year old company that takes cheese curds very seriously, and in an operation that processes close to 1.3 million pounds of milk a day, it’s no surprise that efficiency is a critical component of the operation.

Cheese curds are essentially cheddar cheese in its purest form. Described as “squeaky” fresh, the production process is actually anything but squeaky clean, especially when it comes to processing whey powder. As a by-product of cheese, whey is the liquid component that separates from milk after the curdling process. Ellsworth dries the whey into a powder form and sells it to a variety of markets for use in everything from animal feed to flavoring in popular snack foods. Last year, Ellsworth Co-op manufactured 45 million pounds of cheese and 24 million pounds of whey powder.

During the drying process, the fine and dusty whey powder settles on the floor, ceilings, and machinery. Whey Supervisor John Freyholtz used to combat the problem with mops, brooms, and shop-style vacuums, all of which were time consuming to use and inefficient, especially when shop vacuums burned up every few months because of heavy usage. And in an operation that runs around the clock, even during power outages, the archaic methods of cleaning just weren’t cutting it.

Todd Schreiner, account manager with broad-line supplier company Nelson-Jameson Inc., was also aware of the creamery’s dust problem. He visits the plant on a bi-weekly basis and knew the creamery could benefit from a Nilfisk CFM industrial vacuum.

Schreiner gave Freyholtz a brochure about Nilfisk industrial vacs and offered to set up a demo of the Model CFM 118. A portable, high-powered vacuum, it’s equipped with a large main filter and an external filter shaker, allowing the user to purge the filter free of dust.

During the demo, Schreiner and Freyholtz vacuumed walls, pipes, equipment and floors. Freyholtz was convinced that the industrial vac was a logical alternative to the old, time-consuming methods.

What once was a multi-person job that could take hours is now done in less than half the time. And aside from general cleaning, Ellsworth staff has found other uses for the vacuum, such as sucking up excess whey powder that settles on shipping totes after they’re filled.

“Unlike sweeping and compressed air, the vacuum isn’t really something we have to think about. Now all we have to do is worry about emptying the collection container when it gets full,” said Freyholtz. “It’s a painless operation.”

For more information: Joe Wintsch, 800-645-3475, questions@nilfisk-advance.com