Long on cash and short on capacity, T. Marzetti Co. took the plunge two years ago and began construction of its first new plant in more than half a century. Now it intends to exploit its new asset.
is the first defense against bacteria in salad dressings, a point hammered home
to mixing operator Tom Mahoney with the critical control point reminder on his
Food Engineering’s first Plant of the Year award was presented a quarter
century ago, outsourcing of non-core food-production competencies was still a
vague rumor. The winning entry in 1983
came from Campbell Soup Co., which built its Maxton, NC, facility with
A starkly different approach was taken by T. Marzetti Co., winner of the 25th
annual Plant of the Year designation. While the company’s eight-person
corporate engineering staff and key operations, R&D and QA personnel played
a role, the project’s engineering, equipping and innovation initiatives were
driven by outside experts. Plant manager Jim Kirton, with two prior greenfield projects under his belt,
was recruited from California. Even the suitability of
the land on which the Horse Cave, KY, facility sits required input from
geologists and other outside experts.
Marzetti team took possession of the 220,000-sq.-ft. building last fall and is
gradually ramping up production. Fully staffed, the plant will employ 257. As
customer orders and comfort level with the new plant increase, management hopes
to take full advantage of its first new facility since the Marzetti family
owned the firm. The walls are up, machines are humming, but learning to exploit
its potential is just beginning. Shambaugh & Son, the Fort
Wayne, IN, design/build firm for the
project (MSKTD was project architect), turned the keys to the $50 million
project over to Marzetti in September. Now the company is learning to use it.
A maker of salad dressings, sauces and dips, Marzetti’s traces its origins to
1896. Émigré Teresa Marzetti opened a Columbus, OH, restaurant popular with Ohio State University students. Diners often
left with bottles of creamy coleslaw and French dressing, creating a brisk
carryout trade. Dressing manufacture eventually dwarfed the foodservice
business, and Marzetti had multiple manufacturing sites by the time it was
acquired in 1969 by the newly organized Lancaster Colony Corp. Capacity
constraints began crimping growth several years ago, particularly for the
strategically important foodservice segment. By 2003, management began
evaluating sites for its first new-plant project.
Fifty possible locations were considered, according to Jeff Harris, Marzetti’s
vice president-engineering, before the focus shifted to Hart County, KY, a
community 300 miles Southwest of Columbus. Applying the Field of Dreams
philosophy of industrial development, the county’s industrial authority built a
46,000-sq.-ft. spec building in 2001 on a 50-acre parcel on the southern edge
of Horse Cave, then began looking for a
manufacturer willing to locate there, recalls Terry Shelton, the county’s judge
executive at the time. “We ruled out some industries as too unstable” while
seeking a tenant, says Shelton. A food company was high
on the county’s wish list, he adds.
The search for a suitor intersected with Marzetti’s site research. Horse Cave was convenient to key customers’
DCs, and the available network of interstate highways would make a supply-chain
strategist squeal with delight. On the downside, Horse Cave lies immediately East of
Mammoth Cave National Park. A honeycomb of caves and karst formations lies
under a layer of often-unsettled topsoil. Sinkholes and cavern collapses that
can swallow entire structures are a distinct danger.
must remove the projectile from the pig catcher before a swing valve for the
CIP system can be engaged.
town’s namesake cavern extends to within 300 ft. of the new plant, and a series
of smaller caves pockmark the area beyond that. Site work began with the
assistance of geologists at nearby Western Kentucky University. Electrical resistivity
tests and a micro-gravity study were used to identify possible voids and
density differences in the soil.
Wider spacing of the building’s footings and other foundation modifications
were incorporated into the design. Still, it wasn’t until 4,000 cubic yards of
grout were pumped into strategic points that engineers were confident they had
Up to 400 psi of pressure was used to inject a low-strength sand mix into the
ground. If the grout had been mixed off site and delivered, “you’re talking 500
trucks,” estimates project manager Gary Hegger, a senior vice president at
Shambaugh. “We have as much (mortar) in the ground as above the ground.”
The foundation for Horse Cave’s functionality,
flexibility and expandability was laid over two days in intensive meetings
between 10 Shambaugh engineers and twice as many Marzetti employees. “Shambaugh
pulled out of us what we saw this building being,” Harris recalls. “We had time
to massage the information and get a plan we can live with for years to come.”
During the 12-week planning and budgeting process, 90 three-dimensional
renditions were generated as different approaches and tweaks were considered.
“Renderings that took hundreds of hours to generate years ago are now easily
created and modified,” says Shambaugh’s Paul E. Meyers Jr., design/build
projects engineering manager. Freed from restrictive software licenses,
designers now share public files with the client’s engineers, who then have an
easy-to-understand graphic to present to operators, managers and corporate
Liquid ingredients feed through mass flow meters and are combined in the attic area, resulting in preliminary mixing as they flow through a single vertical pipe to the kitchens below. Source: Shambaugh & Son.
The give and take produced an innovative layout for the kitchens, the area that houses mixing bowls and other equipment related to dressing production. Typically kitchens are on a plant’s main level, while mixing operators add dry ingredients and control the process from a scaffold. Meyers suggested recessing the kitchens, a concept similar to an approach Harris encountered from his days as an industrial engineer with Campbell. The advantages were clear; the question was: what problems might be created?
Excavating a 7-ft. deep trench to house the Scott Turbon high-shear mixers, pumps, valves and other equipment added cost, but it was offset by the elimination of stainless-steel platforms where operators otherwise would be positioned. Lowering the equipment also eliminated ergonomic issues associated with lifting ingredients up the scaffolds, though it also created a challenge in evacuating wastewater after washdown. Four pits were dug, and the low point of the line is 15 ft. below grade. A PD pump that operates at up to 900 gpm lifts wastewater 20 ft. from the low point to an adjacent pretreatment plant. “That’s a fire line,” jests Hegger, noting incoming water arrives at 600 gpm.
Jeff Harris (left) and Shambaugh project manager Gary Hegger review schematics
on a laptop in the plant’s lab.
Toys in the attic
and his process/controls colleague were involved in some of the most innovative
aspects of the project. Much of their work is hidden from view for
Though skid-mounted systems are common, Horse Cave is skids on steroids. As
much as one-quarter of construction man-hours were performed in Fort
Wayne in Shambaugh’s equipment fabrication and panel shops.
Quality control was one benefit, though faster job fulfillment was the primary
objective. Finding enough skilled workers in a rural area is an issue, and the Horse Cave project was underway
during a rainy spring, when large pieces of equipment were being pulled out of
the mud. While site workers dealt with the elements, tradesmen 320 miles north
wielded orbital welders and circuit solderers in climate-controlled rooms.
An armada of trailers carried dozens of process skids and utility pipe clusters
in 40 ft. lengths to Horse Cave. One CIP skid with two shell-and-tube heat
exchangers, condensate pumps and related equipment weighed 15,000 lbs.
gallon containers are filled and packed on this line, most products are filled
in single-serve portion packs.
of the skids were hoisted more than 30 ft. above the process floor and anchored
to steel trusses and other structural steel. As many as four trusses were
ganged together to support the weight. When a stainless-steel walkable ceiling
was later installed, the interstitial space became an isolation zone where
maintenance and repairs could be performed without jeopardizing sanitary
conditions in the processing and packaging areas below. Equipment typically
found on the processing floor was shoved into the attic, leaving an uncluttered
work area below.
Bulk liquid ingredients are piped to the interstice and through mass-flow
meters to meet a batch’s recipe: 100 gallons of oil, 50 gallons of vinegar, 20
gallons sucrose, etc. The liquids are combined in a 6-in. vertical pipe that
descends to the mixers below. “You’re starting to get some mixing in that batch
column before it hits the mixer, which can decrease blending time,” says
Meyers. The main advantage, however, is a significant reduction in the amount
of piping in the makeup area. Dust buildup on horizontal surfaces is a
Energy efficiency took a backseat to food safety in illuminating the processing
and packaging areas. The metal-halide lights over the work areas can only be
accessed from the attic, eliminating the possibility of contaminants entering
the food-handling space during maintenance. High-efficiency fluorescents that
draw considerably less power were used in the plant’s warehouse.
wiring laces the backside of the flowverter that ties blending and cooking
kitchens to the tank farm and provides 156 possible paths.
engineered a CIP system his colleagues refer to as “parallel/sequential path.”
Efficiency, flexibility and cost effectiveness factored into a design that borrows
from dairy’s CIP principles and pharmaceutical’s cross-contamination concerns.
Also incorporated is a pigging system that serves as a CIP failsafe, as well as
product recovery mechanism.
The six existing kitchens are linked to 26 holding tanks through a flowverter
that provides 156 possible paths from the mixers to the tank farm. When three
more mixers and four more tanks are added, the possibilities will expand to 270
paths. Automatic valves would simplify routing but greatly complicate product recovery:
up to 300 ft. of 3-in. piping separates the mixers from the tanks, making the
recoverable product between batches as much as 100 gallons. The pigging-system
projectile can travel the entire length, and an operator must remove it in
order to make the CIP connection. If the pig isn’t removed, wash water doesn’t
return, shutting down CIP.
“The basic system would have been a swing connection to each line circuit, but
then you could only clean one line at a time,” notes Meyers. Three 240-gal. CIP
tanks give operators the ability to clean multiple lines in parallel or
sequentially. A single 650-gal. CIP tank and 4-in. serpentine lines would
provide similar capabilities, but the larger pumps and piping would be
overkill, he says. “It’s an economics issue.”
Operators and sanitation workers were given weeks of training to make sure they
are able to execute changeovers quickly. “Once you understand how it works,”
says Meyers, “it offers tremendous flexibility.”
heat exchangers are included on a 15,000-lb. skid fabricated in Fort Wayne and
housed into an attic above the processing floor. In the foreground on the
walkable ceiling are light fixtures accessible only from this level, preventing
contaminants from entering the production area during servicing.
Back to the future
is built into every area of the plant, from blending and filling to air and
refrigeration compression and boiler capacity. The automation system is no
exception, and the heart of the controls in Horse Cave has a distinctive beat.
“I call it a fault-tolerant system,” explains electrical engineer Doug Clark,
Shambaugh’s manager of process control & automation. Instead of a
distributed controls architecture, a redundant PLC system was designed with a
Profibus line to remote I/O racks that connect to motor controls, VFDs,
pneumatic valves and other field devices. If the first PLC fails, a second
connected by fiber optics immediately takes over. “That redundancy is carried
over to the Profibus I/O network,” Clark adds, with two cables connecting to each
Similar redundancy is built into the server network, with a Siemens Win-CC
backing up an identical unit for recipe management, HMI supervisory control and
other functions. Ethernet connects the servers to nine HMI consoles, warehouse
PCs and the PLC network.
Open-architecture controls have been fundamental at the firm for 20 years, and
the Profibus network can be used with any PLC, Clark points out. A bus Y link
provides a bumpless switchover of the I/O line if there is a fault on the
Siemens S7-400H PLC. He tested the hot back-up by killing power to the first
PLC while a motor with a VFD was running. “The changeover occurred in
hundredths of an RPM,” says Clark. “The motor didn’t even
While a controls security blanket was a priority, integration of the servers to
a remote ERP system for offline monitoring and data acquisition was not. “All the fundamental building blocks and
architecture are there,” Clark says. “As time goes on, if
they want to integrate to IT, there are no dead-ends to upgrade.”
Upgrades are possible throughout the plant. Packaging is a prime candidate. A
gallon-container filler and 64-oz. Cryovac machine that can exhaust a
3,000-gallon storage tank in under 90 minutes are the only high-volume fillers.
Portion packs of 1.5 oz. make up most of the packaging volume. Besides creating
a production choke point, slow fill rates work against automation. Cases are
manually formed and palletized. When a second Cryovac filler is added,
automated case forming and palletizing systems can be designed, says Marzetti’s
Most dry ingredients for batches are metered by hand and delivered by hand
trucks to the mixing area. The opportunity for automation exists, but not until
more lines are installed.
Security issues are front and center in today’s food production. A facility’s
location influences biosecurity needs, and Horse Cave (pop.: 2,252) is a
low-priority target for international terrorists (though the US Department of
Homeland Security gave the Appalachian community $89,000 in 2004 for
emergency-response equipment). No fence surrounds the plant, and bulk
ingredients arrive in an open outdoor bay. Padlocks secure the receiving
portals for liquid ingredients. On the other hand, employees wear color-coded
uniforms, and key-card readers restrict access within the facility. Workers use
their cards to enter through an imposing metal turnstile suitable for a maximum
Only a handful of the plant’s workers had previous food-plant experience.
Developing a job matrix with skill requirements for all 257 positions,
including good manufacturing practices for food handling, was Kirton’s first
challenge. Working backward from the start-up date, new hires joined the staff
in time for up to six weeks of training.
One of only two Marzetti employees to transfer to Horse Cave heads the 14-man
maintenance department, which is installing the newest generation of enterprise
asset management software from Greenville, SC-based AssetPoint. The functions
of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) are augmented with
capital and equipment analytics and mobile maintenance, two modules that will
be implemented over time at the facility, says Michael Stone, AssetPoint’s
senior director-product strategy & marketing. Handheld devices collect and
record data for work scheduling, preventive maintenance, parts management,
purchase orders and warranty tracking, a critical function in a new plant.
“Implementing CMMS with a new plant is a huge advantage,” Kirton notes, because
a change in behavior is not required. Additionally, many workers migrated from
the automotive industry, where computerized systems are entrenched.
It’s a fresh approach to old challenges, and the same can be said about many of
the systems at Horse Cave. Multiple experts worked
to deliver a world-class facility to Marzetti. Now it’s up to the in-house
staff to make the most of the opportunity. u
For more information:
Michael D. Stone, AssetPoint,
Paul Meyers Jr., Shambaugh & Son, 260-487-7805, firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Clark, Shambaugh & Son, 260-487-7772,
recessing the mixing vessels and installing much of the process equipment
above, Marzetti enjoys an uncluttered and relatively open processing area.
Lancaster Colony's crown jewel
Restaurants that morphed into manufacturers were not unusual in the 20th Century, though T. Marzetti Co.’s path is distinctly its own. Beginning as a small Italian restaurant in Columbus, OH, Marzetti saw its dining receipts eclipsed by retail sales long before its acquisition in 1961 by Lancaster Colony Corp., a diversified manufacturer of automotive floor mats and decorative glassware and candles. Salad dressings and sauce production was part of a specialty foods division that grew with the acquisition of Mountain Top frozen pies, Amish Kitchen egg noodles and other brands to become a $212 million segment by 1992. Since then, national distribution and a growing foodservice business have pushed food sales to $708 million, 60% of corporate sales.
Columbus will continue to be the corporate and manufacturing heart of Lancaster Colony, but Horse Cave, KY, promises to be an engine for growth. Besides the T. Marzetti facility completed last year, the company is building a frozen-dough plant for its Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls unit immediately north of the sauce and dressings building.