Combining of craftsmanship and automation

Published: 23-12-2015

Expert cheese makers, two hypermodern production lines and twelve automated guided vehicles (AGVs) form the core of Royal A-ware’s new cheese factory in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. In September 2015, Food Valley Society members visited the factory, which collaborates closely with Fonterra, a leading New Zealand dairy cooperative.

“Through long-term partnership with various parties in the production chain, we are ensuring that we remain a healthy family business,” said Klaas de Jong, COO of Royal A-ware, during a tour of the company premises for Food Valley Society members. “Our collaboration with Fonterra is also meant to be long-term. Both parties benefit from this strategic alliance. Fonterra gets a foothold in the European market and Royal A-ware has a sustainable solution for its side product, whey.”

The new location in Heerenveen features two plants side by side: one is Royal A-ware’s cheese factory, the other Fonterra’s whey processing facility for the production of ingredients for example whey powder and sports drinks. The factories are physically linked by an impressive system of piping, which transports the fresh whey from the cheese factory directly to the whey processing plant.

New cheese factory
The first blueprints for the modern cheese factory date back to 2011. According to De Jong, the company chose the site in Heerenveen based on, among others, the cooperative attitude of local authorities. Construction went according to schedule and in December 2014, the first cheeses were immersed in brine.”

Royal A-ware processes milk from four sources: from their own farmers, from the cooperative Noorderland Melk co-op, from the Dutch Milk Foundation (a fund established at the behest of the European Commission after FrieslandFoods and Campina merged into FrieslandCampina), and from the free market. Since early 2015, the dairy has been producing 30 different types of cheese on two production lines. One of the lines is equipped to produce authentic Gouda-type cheeses and the other is suitable for special receipes. In-plant transportation is handled by twelve AGVs that are centrally operated. Cameras are used to monitor the processes and for quality control. Through extensive automation, the facility is highly efficient.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a priority. Royal A-ware has installed solar panels on its roof in keeping with its goal of minimizing environmental impact. They are also exploring the possibilities of using geothermal energy. Its waste water is purified and then processed by the Fryslân Water Board. Royal A-ware also invests in employee education as part of its CSR policy.

Royal A-ware