On April 15 of this year, PMMI’s OpX Leadership Network presented the 2014 Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Awards (SEMA) during Food Engineering’s Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference in Clearwater Beach, FL. The peer-reviewed awards recognize facilities for projects or programs that improve sustainability efforts in food, beverage or consumer product manufacturing operations by focusing on pollution prevention, compliance assurance and environmental protection.

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Sunny Delight Beverages Co. received first-place honors in the “Projects Category,” while the Musco Family Olive Co., located in Tracy, CA, and the Keystone Foods’ plant in Camilla, GA, took second and third place, respectively. The Guragon, India, facility of Agro Tech Foods Ltd. received first place in the “Programs Category;” the Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. facility in Charlotte, NC, was the runner-up in that category.

Energy-efficient system

Sunny Delight Beverages was recognized for its improvements to the electrical energy quality coming into its South Brunswick, NJ, plant. The company reduced the site’s electrical consumption and carbon footprint by increasing electrical efficiencies and reducing the current drawn by the equipment.

The sustainability program at Sunny Delight started over eight years ago with the goals of reducing water and energy usage, as well as carbon levels, by 25 percent per unit volume; achieving zero landfill waste; and increasing recycling to 90 percent. Even though the company is still on its way to achieving some of these goals, the plant has become landfill-free and recycles 91 percent of its waste.

In 2013, Sunny Delight hired Advanced Energy Dynamics (AED) to treat every pump, motor, HVAC and refrigeration system at the site to improve power quality.

“We were looking for a sustainability project to reduce our electrical usage and cost, and AED’s proposal had many additional benefits,” recalls Amber Brovak, HSE and sustainability manager for Sunny Delight Beverages.

Different items were installed on each piece of equipment to help stabilize the energy drawn. The project’s implementation took five months to complete and achieved payback before the expected 22 months. Moreover, the plant is running the same equipment, while using less energy, and the site’s power quality has improved, reducing outage effects. “We don’t have the kind of power fluctuations we used to see; no blips in the energy or brownouts,” says Brovak.

Besides conserving energy while running the equipment, the site has realized a number of additional benefits, such as increased motor reliability, a longer lifespan of equipment and reduced heat from the motors. These benefits have decreased the costs and time for maintenance on the line. Plus, existing equipment is replaced less often. Also, the improved quality of the energy has led to a decreased load during high-demand periods, which is especially important in the summer.

“The project has saved our South Brunswick plant over 2 million kWh per year, has decreased our carbon inventory by 6 percent and has increased our power factor correction to .98-.99,” Brovak says.

In fact, the project has worked out so well for Sunny Delight that the company is currently implementing it in its Anaheim, CA, plant.

Zero-waste facility

The Musco Family Olive Company’s Tracy, CA, site won second-place honors in the Project Category for turning its waste stream into a profit stream in an effort to become a zero-waste facility. The plant is located outside the city limits, which means it does not have access to any city sewers or other services. Sitting on 330 acres of land in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the plant dedicates 20 acres to processing the olives; the remaining acreage is for environmental management.

Olives are pumped into the facility for pitting, brining and canning. During this process, a percentage of them are damaged and become unusable, which the company calls “wet waste.” The olive pieces contain excess water and brine, making their disposal a challenge for the waste stream. “Previously, Musco donated this waste to local dairy farmers to mix into cattle feed,” says CEO Felix Musco. “Unfortunately, the high-moisture content made poor feed.”

The company realized it needed to create the right recipe and process to make a good cattle feed to generate a profit. In 2013, Musco invested in a wet press system, which cost $130,000 to install. The system grinds together water, brine, damaged olives, stems and leaves, and squeezes out the excess water, resulting in a nutritious cattle feed with the correct low-moisture content. The reformulation has allowed the company to increase the feed price from $1 per ton to $15 to $20 per ton.

The wet press also has decreased waste tonnage by 55 percent and reduced waste transportation costs. The number of trucks on the road shipping this product has been cut from 300 to 140 annually, and trucking costs have been reduced 101 percent.

“Before, we were transporting a whole bunch of water with olives,” says Dennis Leikam, environmental manager for Musco. “Now, it is a whole bunch of olives with a little bit of water.”

In addition, the excess brine water is now handled by Musco’s process water treatment program, further reducing waste, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions produced from excess trucking and eliminating potential ground contamination.

“We are proof that innovative environmental solutions are not only attainable but good business,” says Musco, who represents the third generation of the Musco family legacy. “These technological innovations allow us to grow and expand responsibly.”

Dust collection system

In third place for the Project Category, Keystone Foods, a subsidiary of Marfrig Global Foods, was recognized for implementing a dust collection system at its Camilla, GA, facility that reduces waste going into landfills and improves employee safety.

Keystone’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program began seven years ago. It is known internally as KEYSTAR, which stands for Keystone Sustainable Growth, Total Commitment, Achieving Balance and Responsibility to the Environment. When tested on the recognition and understanding of KEYSTAR, 95 percent of the employees knew what it was and what it meant.

“We were really pleased about that,” says Ed Delate, former vice president of global engineering, corporate social responsibility and safety for Keystone, who accepted the award at the Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference. “We are constantly communicating with our employees about the program and encouraging them to participate.”

The principles of KEYSTAR are to balance environmental stewardship, social responsibility and profitable growth. KEYSTAR teams are located at every plant and hold meetings regularly. The CSR and sustainability program is managed by a dedicated global team that facilitates decision-making across the business.

Last year, Keystone put in place at its Camilla, GA, facility a system to collect the “dust” (the breading used to coat chicken) generated during processing that gathered on the floor and went into the wastewater during washdowns.

“Breading particles were created, rising into the air, landing on the floor and clogging drains,” explains Susan Lorenz-Fisher, Keystone director of sustainability and global communications. “These particles made cleaning more difficult and costly and sent additional matter to the wastewater treatment facility.”

The company saw an opportunity to collect that dust during the process. The project began in mid-2013; the installation took 11 months. During each day of production, the breading particle collection system now gathers nearly 6,000 pounds of material, which are sold to a third-party organization for use in animal feed. Additionally, the air quality in the plant has improved, increasing employee safety.

“We can now utilize our system to collect more than 1.3 million pounds of dust per year and divert those particles from the landfill and the wastewater treatment plant,” says Lorenz-Fisher. “The project has enhanced employee safety, streamlined operations and minimized environmental impact— consistent with the guiding principles of the Keystone Foods’ KEYSTAR Program.”

Sustainable HVAC system

Agro Tech Foods, a division of ConAgra Foods in India, took first place in the Program Category for designing a sustainable HVAC system at its Guragon plant. The company put in a series of controls, as well as checks and balances that resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of energy required to run the plant’s system.

Most importantly, the company installed a hybrid treated fresh air system (HTFA) designed to save energy by better utilizing chilled water. The sophisticated equipment incorporates sensible cooling to precool ambient air.

While standard systems work from higher ambient temperatures to deliver the desired conditions, the HTFA system uses an indirect, evaporative cooling module to remove sensible heat and a “run around” heat exchanger that enables precooling and reheating.

This system results in substantially lower power consumption and can be retrofitted for conventional systems or installed in new green building projects. The return on investment is projected to be achieved within 24 months. The former projects manager for Agro Tech Foods, Chayan Kaushal, accepted the award.

Landfill-free plant

Snyder’s-Lance was awarded second place in the Program Category for its work in making the company’s Charlotte, NC, plant landfill-free. The program started in December 2013 with the launching of a “green team” consisting of volunteer associates who wanted to make a positive impact on sustainability.

“Through effective communication and coaching, the green team was able to lead the effort,” notes Joe Sgroi, environmental engineer and EH&S manager for Snyder’s-Lance. “Our associates are engaged with sustainability, the planet is better off with less landfill waste, and our profit from recycling revenue is up.” He explains this statement reflects what the company calls the “triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.”

When the Snyder’s-Lance Charlotte plant started the project, a number of mission statements were created. First, the plant wanted to be an example for the company and the industry by becoming landfill-free in addition to establishing best green practices. The program was designed to increase the engagement level of team members and generate revenue from recyclables to reinvest in the plant and the green team. Also, the plant wanted to be a good business partner for the community and its customers.

“Through this program, the Charlotte plant has been very engaged with the local counties’ ‘Wipe Out Waste’ program,” says Sgroi. “The green team has been on the local news twice in the past year to share our success story.”

He adds that the program started with what the plant had on hand—a few 55-gallon drums with some labels to separate the recyclables. This very simple beginning allowed the plant to focus on getting employees to participate in recycling, instead of concentrating on obtaining investments.

The plant communicated the initiative through a number of efforts, such as monthly newsletters, monthly and pre-shift meetings, e-mails and word of mouth. Additionally, creative solutions were utilized to generate awareness, such as installing basketball hoops over recycling bins for paper towels and running a program (similar to the “Adopt a Highway” campaign), where employees “own” an area of the facility to keep clean. The company also held a “dumpster dive” where employees dug through the trash.

“You don’t know what you have until you go through your trash,” Sgroi observes. “If you’re going landfill-free, it’s the most effective tool we’ve found.” The effort proved to be an eye-opener, showing that in its chip plant, 55 percent of the trash was food waste, which could have been repurposed to the company’s chicken farmers.

The program has helped increase recycling revenue by about 25 percent year over year. Also, the cost to send the plant’s trash to the landfill has decreased from approximately $14,000 a month to around $5,000 a month. Currently, the Charlotte site is 95 percent landfill-free and plans to become a waste-to-energy facility by the end of this year.

As for advice to plants looking to start a landfill-free journey, Sgroi says, “Invest in your people, and recruit volunteers to help lead the effort. Volunteers are committed and passionate!”

Response to the awards

Even though this was the first program for the SEMA Awards, OpX leaders were impressed by the number of companies that participated and showed their dedication to the goals of innovation, quality and environmental sustainability.

“We are excited that the Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Awards program has resonated globally and look forward to seeing further improvements to sustainability in food, beverage and consumer products operations next year,” says Bill Gill, Smithfield Foods assistant vice president of environmental affairs. Gill led the program for the OpX Leadership Network and presented the awards at the Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference.

“First and foremost, the Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Awards are a means to recognize CPGs for creativity and innovation. We hold up these companies and their work as examples of best practices. Hopefully, they’ll inspire other manufacturers to pursue sustainable manufacturing goals,” says Steve Schlegel, co-managing director of the OpX Leadership Network.

The next SEMA awards ceremony will be held at Food Engineering’s Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference, scheduled for April 10-13, 2016, at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott in Fort Myers, FL. To register for the conference, visit www.foodautomationconference.com.


For more information:

Steve Schlegel, OpX Leadership Network, 571-332-4594,
sschlegel@opxleadershipnetwork.org, www.opxleadershipnetwork.org.