Winsted’s Tetra Pak plans expansion

June 2, 2008

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Just say, “cheese” and you can get any one of Winsted’s Tetra Pak CPS employees to smile.

The reason they are smiling is because business is booming for the stainless steel manufacturer of cheese and dairy systems located south of Winsted on McLeod County Road 9.

The demand for Tetra Pak CPS (cheese and powder systems) equipment has been driven by the steady increase in cheese consumption in the US, which is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, according to the Commodity Research Bureau (CRB).

The total annual cheese production in the US was 9.7 billion pounds in 2007, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) April 2008. That is up from 7.49 billion pounds in 1998.

The company has been so successful since purchasing the plant December 2006, it is planning to expand its manufacturing plant, in the near future, by 12,000 square feet, and add another 12 employees.

The expansion will give the company a total of 65,000 square feet of manufacturing space not including office, warehousing, or other storage space.

Of the four Tetra Pak CPS locations in the US, Winsted’s plant is the only one to take responsibility for the systems and manufacture of all types of cheese production.

An office in Columbia, Md. is responsible for powder systems, the office in Fond du Lac, Wis. is responsible for service solutions, and the location in Rockford, Ill. is used to order and fill spare parts.

There are currently 115 Tetra Pak employees in Winsted, many of them part of the stainless steel manufacturing process.

The machine shop is where all of the needed components are made. If it gets backlogged, the machining will be subcontracted out.

“A lot of our disciplines here are welding and grinding,” Winsted’s Tetra Pak CPS Operations Director Dan Green said.

“All the welds are ground so they are crack-and crevice-free for sanitary reasons and longevity. From the beginning to the end, every piece is ground.”

Laser technology is relatively new for cutting metal. A high definition plasma has recently been added to cut stainless steel 1.25 inches thick.

Other new pieces of manufacturing equipment have been added including a new saw, vertical mill, and an orbital welder. All machining tools are programmed by computer.

Sheets of stainless steel are everywhere in the plant. A full sheet can be run through a roller for forming or sheared to length in the guillotine.

As part of cheese production systems, Winsted’s plant offers vats, towers, tanks and enclosures; software engineers who develop programs to make systems work; a CIP (clean in place) system based on the size and design of each production application to clean the entire system automatically; installation of the equipment; and follow-up services once the equipment is installed.

“What our customers are looking for in our equipment and services is a payback on their capital investment – how many pounds of milk you have to put in, to how many pounds of cheese you get out. The more efficiently you can handle the milk, the greater return on the investment,” Green said.

A new offering from Tetra Pak CPS is the Yield Master vat. It will process 70,000 pounds of milk at one time.

“In the heart of the cheese plants are the vats,” Green said. “One plant could have from four to 12 vats or more. We have the capability of making different sized vats depending on the capacity needed.”

The largest cheese producing machine sold by Tetra Pak is made up of three pieces. Two of the pieces are each 85 feet long. Called the Draining Matting Machine (DMM), it is used for draining the whey from the curd.

Before these large pieces are shipped, the USDA will come in and inspect the equipment.

“It is our choice whether we have it inspected here or in the field,” Green said. “Because it is such a big piece of equipment, we would rather have it inspected here first, before shipping it.”

When the DMM is ready to be shipped, it is lifted onto a semi truck with overhead 25-ton cranes.

All of the equipment leaving Tetra Pak is shipped by semi truck, mostly throughout the US and Canada.

Safety for all employees is important to Tetra Pak.

“We have safety meetings every month,” Green said. “We shut the plant down and we talk about all sorts of safety issues. Some of them are OSHA-directed and some are our own initiative to constantly educate workers.”

Tetra Pak is a global company

Tetra Pak is a multinational food processing and packaging company which began in Sweden in 1951. The family-based company of Rausings took the company from a seven-person business to one of Sweden’s largest corporations by 1985.

Tetra Pak founder Ruben Rausing was Sweden’s richest person before his death in 1983. Today, there is a Tetra Pak company located in almost every country in the world.

Tetra Pak’s first product was a paper carton used for storing and transporting milk. The first product was a pyramid-shaped package called “Tetra Classic.”

The carton is fully airtight, using a system of plastic and aluminum-coated paperboard combined with an aseptic filling system which, when combined with an ultra-high-temperature process, allows liquid food to be packaged and stored under room temperature for up to a year.

Tetra Pak CPS acquired the plant in Winsted from Carlisle Processing Systems. Carlisle had previously acquired Scherping, Damrow, and Wicanton for cheese systems and Scheffers and CPS brand equipment for powder systems.

Winsted company’s contribution to Tetra Pak

Scherping Systems was originally owned by Virgil Scherping of Winsted. In 1968, Scherping began installing sanitary piping for dairy or food processing in milk plants like Land O’ Lakes and Kemps.

He worked out of his garage on George Avenue where he employed his son, Rodney, and other young adults to help make components and small tanks.

A shop was built by Scherping at the current Tetra Pak location on County Road 9 in 1975.

Before Scherping sold his business in 1996, to Walker Stainless Equipment Company, he had added on to the shop two more times.

He designed a vat as well as other stainless steel equipment still used today, using the product name “Tetra Scherping,” and had 125 employees working for him.

Virgil and Rodney Scherping now own Crow River Harley-Davidson in Delano.

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