A Foundation of Safety and Efficiency
Advanced automation, streamlined design launch Kraft Heinz plant into the future
The goals of food safety as well as efficiency drove the design of Kraft Heinz's new state-of-the-art plant in Davenport, Iowa.
"Each detail of the facility was built to maintain and even improve Kraft Heinz's already high standards of food safety," said Michael Mullen, senior vice president of Corporate & Government Affairs.
In every plant that produces food, manufacturers work to prevent cross-contamination – that is, raw food coming in contact with cooked food that's being packaged for sale. Cross-contamination leads to the possibility of bacteria growth that can hurt customers.
Kraft Heinz used the opportunity of designing the new plant to build in extensive safeguards against cross-contamination.
"The new one-story facility was designed for the highest level of efficiency. It advances food safety to a new level with complete raw and ready-to-eat separation," explained Mullen.
Raw and ready-to-eat foods are handled in one building with separate entrances -- and with physical separation between the two areas.
Each area has its own offices, locker rooms, restrooms, cafeterias, meeting rooms, docks and maintenance areas.
Also, lights, heating and air conditioning vents and fire protection devices were positioned to avoid being above food products, which removed the potential for them to contaminate the food.
Washing stations, including hoses and foam, are placed throughout the facilities, allowing for easy access when cleaning equipment and surfaces of the buildings.
"These measures ensure repeated cleaning and sanitation for food safety measures," Mullen said.
The plant also features a two-stage refrigeration system. Ammonia is used in a few small areas of the plant to cool glycol, which then goes throughout the plant to cool it. This keeps most of the ammonia in the mechanical spaces of the building, a design that is trending among modern food processors.
The glycol is food-grade -- yet another example of the focus on built-in food safety features in the facility.
The new plant also makes greater efficiency possible.
"The company streamlined operations, moving from multiple processing and cooking methods in the original factory to a plant with a simplified production process," Mullen said.
The one-story building features a one-way, flow-through operation equipped with smart manufacturing capabilities. Here’s how the process works:
- Truckloads of raw meat arrive at the plant.
- Food safety ingredients and flavoring are injected into the meat as it is macerated and ground.
- The meat then goes into a chilled tumbler that reduces the time needed for protein extraction.
- Next, the meat is moved into an Armor Inox system. Hot water flows into the tank to cook the meat, and cold water then flows in to cool it.
- In a slicing room, cooked meat goes into one end and comes out the other where slices drop into containers.
Additionally, the Kraft Heinz plant uses track-and-trace functionality, which tracks each ingredient that goes into a finished product.
"In terms of specifics, the Davenport plant's design, layout and advanced technology allow for improved ingredient introduction and optimum conditions for processing food products end-to-end," Mullen said. "The company significantly reduced the number of handling steps needed to process meats."
Food Engineering magazine recognized the plant as its “2018 Plant of the Year,” with Editor in Chief Debra Schug noting that "due to the level of automation employed, as well as hygienic design elements and the innovation present in the processing and packaging lines, the Kraft Heinz plant truly is an example of the future food factory built today."