FE Editor in Chief Joyce Fassl presented the 2011 Food Plant of the Year Award to Melissa Shearer, vice president of communications of Shearer’s Foods, and Scott Weyandt, director, sustainability & compliance of Shearer’s Foods, during the Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference held last month in Palm Beach, FL.   

Melissa Shearer, Shearer’s Foods vice president of communications, accepted the Plant of the Year Award fromFEEditor in Chief Joyce Fassl at FE’s Food Automation and Manufacturing Conference 2011, held last month in Palm Beach FL. Shearer’s new Massillon, OH facility was planned with sustainability in its core design and was recently awarded LEED platinum certification by the US Green Building Council. Phase 1 of the “Millennium Facility” was completed in March 2010.

“With the building of the Millennium manufacturing facility, Shearer’s sustainability initiatives have received an overwhelming amount of attention,” said Shearer in her acceptance speech. “Further sustainable initiatives are being explored, which we plan to share with our associates, our community, our industry and other industries as well.”

Sustainability is not a new concept at Shearer’s. In 2006, the snack food processor saw the benefits of participating in the US Energy Star program and began changing out large, clunky, energy-wasting motors with smaller, variable frequency drives and energy-efficient motors. Today, the new facility is all about making as much product as possible with the least amount of natural gas, electricity and water.

Making cornmeal for the tortilla line is one example where innovative design makes a big difference. The corn cooking and transfer system saves 1.7 billion BTUs per year in gas consumption (16 percent of total use) while reducing water consumption by a third, compared to available industry-standard equipment. Retro-fitted ovens provide just the necessary heat, and exchangers are used to reclaim heat.

Industrial networking systems, PLCs, PCs and software automate the process and allow for quick changeovers, while a customized statistical process control system monitors quality, food safety and compliance. With electronic documentation, Shearer’s found it relatively easy to attain third-party SQF Level 3 certification, and in much shorter time than processors without electronic documentation. The typical time of a year or so was reduced to two and half months.

Phase 2 of the project will double the floor space to more than 110,000 sq. ft. with additional lines and brick and mortar. An anaerobic digester is in the plans. For more details on the project, seeFood Engineering’s April 2011 issue.