Fonterra Mozzarella Plant, Clandeboye, New Zealand


Fonterra Mozzarella Plant, Clandeboye, New Zealand

Taking the most famous pizza topping from New Zealand to the world

Mozzarella made at Fonterra’s cheese plant in Clandeboye, New Zealand, is shipped internationally as the business capitalises on the ever-growing popularity of pizza.

To support the continuing growth in production, the plant was upgraded and is now the largest producer of natural mozzarella in the Southern Hemisphere.

Aurecon’s role covered engineering, procurement, construction monitoring and commissioning of the cheese-making process equipment and utilities area, structural and mechanical design of the modularised equipment, and federation of the design in a project wide 3D model.

Aurecon collaborated with Fonterra, and other partners, to modularise the cheese-making process and utilities areas of the plant. This collaboration broke new ground in the New Zealand dairy industry in multiple ways.

First, a highly engaged integrated team worked together effectively by using a unique collaborative EPCM (Engineering, Procurement, Construction Management) contractual approach that fostered non-traditional contract conditions.

This project continues Aurecon’s contribution to this plant, following the lactose evaporator project and previous Mozzarella plant expansions.

Collaboration was the key

The non-traditional approach was to construct the building at the same time that the equipment was being manufactured off site in modules.

Collaboration between the project partners provided certainty around resource requirements for the duration of the project and paved the way for the partnership to work effectively with high levels of trust around the mechanical and electrical design and installation of the core process equipment.

The team made collaborative decisions based on the best outcomes for the whole project. The result is proof that collaboration is key to delivering a complex food manufacturing asset:

  • All partners shared common benefits and real value in the modular construction approach
  • Modularisation reduced on-site works in congested work areas
  • Significant benefits were gained for the health and well-being of construction staff with off-site workshops providing safer working environments
  • A more consistent workflow with off-site modularisation as it ran in parallel with the main building construction programme
  • Enabled delivery of this extremely complex plant within short on-site installation timeframes

Modular design a first in New Zealand

The cheese-making processing and utilities areas were built in modular sections. While modular builds are common practice in the construction industry, this was a first at such scale in the New Zealand dairy industry.

The cheese-making area was chosen to be fully-modularised so that it could be constructed off-site in sections and then rapidly installed once the new building shell was available.

Grouping the process and mechanical equipment into sections that could be built on transportable structural frames allowed the process modules to be fabricated, wired and pre-commissioned off-site in contractor workshops, while construction of the building progressed.

Modular construction mitigated the safety risks associated with traditional builds where complex lifting arrangements and multiple construction interfaces are required to install process equipment.

An additional benefit of modularisation was the ability to spread the workload of required skilled resources evenly throughout the project, rather than in peaked demands.

Modelling in the digital dimension

With modularisation, the mechanical and structural designs were fully detailed prior to the start of construction. An integrated 3D model was created for the project, which incorporated the inputs of suppliers, process and building contractors.

All partners were involved in multidisciplinary 3D reviews during the design phase of each module to ensure that all stakeholders had input to the final design. Plant operators, maintenance staff and project managers also benefited from the 3D visualisation:

  • Operators were able to study the layout and function of the cheese-making area prior to construction and plan their operating procedures accordingly
  • Maintenance teams reviewed the process equipment and access points to plan their maintenance activities
  • Plant operators were trained on the new process equipment and utilities functions during construction by using the 3D visualisation

Modules were prioritised based on long-lead equipment deliveries, and then a sequence of design, review, fabricate, wire and pre-commission activities followed.

Positive contribution to sustainability

Multiple sustainability initiatives were successfully implemented in the plant upgrade:

  • Makeup water for the plant cleaning systems is recovered from processing whey from the cheese making process using reverse osmosis technology. Using recovered water means the plant uses up to 265 million litres less of local aquifer bore water, which is a 20 per cent reduction in water use compared to the existing plant.
  • Waste heat recovery from the plant refrigeration system is utilised for heating the hot recovered water system. The waste heat recovery displaces 1.6 megawatts of heating requirement from the site’s coal fired steam boilers.
  • High voltage transformers are traditionally cooled and insulated with mineral or silicone oil. By comparison, the Clandeboye plant transformers are insulated with vegetable oils, which are environmentally friendly and less flammable.
  • Modularisation of the electrical infrastructure significantly reduced the length of large copper cabling, as main boards and variable speed drives were close coupled on each module.

Commissioning of the plant upgrade was successful, and Fonterra is now producing more of its famous Mozzarella after the upgrade. This would not have been achieved without the collaboration and trust fostered by the integrated team to define and deliver the project.

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