Issue 35

Making the best even better

Product quality was a top scorer in the Arla Foods Ingredients customer survey. Relentless efforts make good products ever better.

Ongoing improvements at the Arla Foods Ingredients whey processing plant in Denmark keep product quality under constant scrutiny. But, if there is one initiative, that has really made an impact on quality in recent times then it’s the establishment of closer dialogue with raw material suppliers.

The introduction of an annual theme day, where the dairies that supply raw whey are invited to learn about Arla Foods Ingredients’ products and application areas, is among the ideas that have made an important difference. “We have always supported our suppliers. But at these annual meetings, and in our supplier communication in general, we have emphasised the importance of whey quality to the quality of our products,” says Christina Skov Lauritzen, quality, environment and health & safety manager at the Danish plant. “At the first meeting, one dairy director exclaimed that it was as if the whey were more important than the cheese his plant is actually there to produce. The dialogue has been an eye-opener for many of our suppliers.”

Spotlight on supplier performance
To ensure high whey quality, suppliers must avoid exposing the whey to high heat treatment, which causes the proteins to denature. Other demands cover the regularity of cleaning routines and transportation temperature in order to maintain the required bacteriological standard.

In Arla Foods Ingredients’ supplier reports, the addition of key parameter scores enables suppliers to compare their performance. Any ‘red’ scores, indicating a failure to meet specific quality requirements, are explained. “We can feel that the attitude of our suppliers has changed. Whey quality has improved and that influences the quality of our final products,” Lauritzen states.

High quality ambitions
Once weighed in at the Arla Foods Ingredients plant, the whey embarks on a processing journey that reflects the company’s high ambitions for hygiene and consistency. Continuous processing adjustments lift quality to new heights in line with customer requirements. Environmental factors are, for many customers today, an integral part of product quality. These, too, are considered in the plant’s efficient processes, which ensure water and energy consumption and waste are kept to a minimum.  

In 2010, Arla Foods Ingredients reinforced its commitment to ethical supply chain performance by becoming a registered member of SEDEX – Supplier Ethical Data Exchange. On a day-to-day basis, the work of a quality, environment and health & safety manager is never done. A high level of quality awareness among all plant staff is essential to maintaining the superior quality of the products. Lauritzen remarks: ”There is always something to keep an eye on in a large factory with complex processes such as ours. We need to have a finger on the pulse all the time.”