Founded in 1927, the German dairy cooperative, Milchwerk Crailsheim-Dinkelsbühl eG, has enlisted GEA with the modernization of its milk treatment area. After milk processing, the associated cheese dairies are supplied with pretreated—purified, heated, and mixed—milk. In addition, Milchwerk has also contracted GEA to digitalize the dairy facility. The dairy plant processes about 150,000 tons of raw milk from cooperative suppliers every year and prepares it to produce Balkan cheese, pasta filata cheese Kashkaval, and grill cheese. In June 2022, GEA began modernization of the liquid part of the facility, with completion planned for early 2023.

Energy-efficient raw milk processing

“The technical modernization at the Crailsheim site represents the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream,” says Josef Vögele, managing director of Milchwerk Crailsheim. “Energy efficiency is our top priority when we think about the future of our dairy.”

The heat treatment of raw milk, is immensely important for hygienic cheese production, but at the same time it requires a lot of energy if the technology and process integration are not perfectly designed. Vögele was convinced by the fact that key technology and components, such as skimmers, valves, and plate heat exchangers, come from one supplier, GEA. The next step will see GEA working with the project team of the Crailsheim dairy plant to develop a comprehensive energy and heat quantity design for the entire plant, thereby unlocking significant carbon dioxide savings potential.

“In Crailsheim they face similar challenges to many other small and medium-sized dairies: Sustainability and digitalization are taking hold—and they can only be implemented by using efficient, high-performance technologies and consistent process planning,” says Steffen Rathmann, managing director of GEA TDS. “To tackle these issues, which are so omnipresent in the industry, we develop the process and technology design based on the specific conditions on site. It makes us proud to have the opportunity to set up the technical backbone for the future success of our customers like Milchwerk Crailsheim.”

Digital monitoring of historical plant activity data

In addition to the above technology to be installed, the dairy opted to record the plant history via GEA Codex Plant Playback. This automation solution analyzes industrial processes batch by batch like a software-based “video recorder.” The software reveals dependencies, errors and their causes, which can be easily fixed. The system animates SCADA Historian data in real time or time lapse. This improves both production as well as product and process safety.

New heat treatment technology and process engineering

In order to connect the cheese dairy to the machine room in Crailsheim, the automation supplier will also technologically modify the various tank farms, fundamentally rebuilding all valve blocks and the cheese milk tank farm. To ensure high microbiological quality, the dairy will get a new pasteurizer with surplus cream cooling and two new thermizers. During the project, the existing CIP station will be upgraded to state of the art. An additional skimming separator will be equipped with GEA proplus, which increases protein yield and significantly reduces fresh water consumption through longer emptying intervals for the milk separator. The cheese production technology will be complemented by two new calcium chloride stations which increase yield and improve product quality through stabilized rennet gel. GEA will modernize the dairy without stopping production.