That’s why DairyReporter.com took a tour of dairy producer Vinamilk’s Vietnam Milk Factory near Ho Chi Minh this month, to see what a ‘state-of-the-art’ processing facility really looks like.
The statistics – here they come – sound impressive. The plant has the capacity to produce 400m litres of milk a year, and has a total output of 304,600 packs per hour across 17 production lines, including eight Tetra Pak A3/Speed iLines, each running at 24,000 packs per hour.
Due to its size, capacity, and technological advances, executives from Vinamilk and Tetra Pak have dubbed it the ‘mega factory.’
But what is it actually like inside a ‘mega’ milk factory? Here are five things you might not have expected:
There’s no milk
Or, to be completely accurate, there’s no milk visible.
The only place you will see the white stuff is in the site’s laboratory, which checks the quality and safety of products. The rest of the time, milk is flowing within the processing equipment, or contained in the cartons on the packaging lines.
Vietnamese will tell you that Ho Chi Minh has two seasons: ‘dry season hot, wet season even hotter.’ On the day of our visit, the outside temperature was around 35 degrees celsius with humidity of 89%.
Once in the factory, you have the heat of hundreds of operating machines on top of that. Milk is contained within processing machines, but any sort of air conditioning in these large metal factory buildings would be impractical.
It doesn’t smell
You’d be forgiven for thinking a dairy factory might be a smelly place, particularly in the Vietnamese heat. But no, it doesn’t smell of milk, or any other off-putting dairy odours.
The vehicles drive themselves
Tetra Pak and Vinamilk promote the factory as a leader when it comes to automation and plant integration. For example, laser guided vehicles (LGVs) cross the factory floor unmanned and transport goods and materials around the site, while more than 240 machines are integrated into the system.
Certainly, automation plays a big part in the factory. But Tetra Pak says workers are still needed to make certain decisions – particularly when it comes to meeting demand from external factors. Some operations, such as testing the quality of milk, cannot be done by machines – yet.
It’s half empty
Vinamilk says the plant is an ‘investment for the future.’
Phase 1, which is what we see today, has the capacity to produce 400m litres of milk a year. But a second phase of development will see production double, reaching 800m litres of milk a year. The plant has a huge expanse of empty factory floor, ready to house the extra lines.
Vinamilk expect dairy consumption to increase in the coming years. Its optimism is backed up by statistics from Euromonitor, which expects the drinking milk products category to record a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% in constant value terms.
With such certainty in growth, no doubt Vinamilk would describe its factory as half full, not half empty.