Tim Easterling, Keystone Foods corporate engineering director; Ed Delate, Keystone Foods vice president of global engineering and corporate social responsibility; and Scott Baldwin, Stellar vice president of construction were honored for their work on Keystone’s Gadsden, AL facility, winner of Food Engineering’s 2010 Plant of the Year award. FE’s Joyce Fassl presented the award during the Food Automation and Manufacturing Conference.

For one of the recipients of the 2010 Plant of the Year award, its designation was almost a case of coming full circle. Keystone Foods’ Ed Delate, vice president of global engineering and corporate social responsibility for the West Conshohocken, PA-based meat and poultry processor, recalled how, 27 years earlier, he was part of the engineering team that accepted the first Plant of the Year Award, for Campbell Soup Co.’s Maxton, NC plant. Coincidentally, the largest customer for the finished goods produced at Keystone’s new Gadsden, AL facility is Campbell’s.

While Keystone operates 54 plants worldwide, the Gadsden, AL facility represented the first time it partnered with a supplier that co-located a facility on the same site, according to Tim Easterling, Keystone’s corporate engineering director who served as project manager. The relationship with Southern Cold Storage, as well as the design/build team at Stellar and the approximately 25 engineers from Brock Solutions who worked on systems integration, required clear and consistent communication, Easterling noted. “All the work you do on the front end is going to pay off at the back end, and you can’t do enough of it,” he said.

Gadsden features three production lines that are segregated from each other, not just with walls but by their separate utilities and infrastructure services. While optimizing food safety, the design isolates workers and makes coordinated responses challenging. To resolve potential problems, Keystone incorporated MES and SPC programs for order management, formula management, batch sequencing and line overview to “give operators visibility to the impact they are having on other parts of the process,” Easterling explained.