Inside Hochwald’s €200m ‘dairy plant of the future’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags hochwald

German dairy Hochwald has opened what it says is the ‘most modern dairy plant in Europe’.

Three years after constriction commenced, Hochwald has officially opened its new plant in Mechernich.

The €200m facility, described as the 'dairy plant of the future' is located on a 21.5-hectare property and has 60,000 square metres of floor space. It will employ around 250 people across a total of 17 different bottling plants.

Setting new standards of digitalisation and automation

CEO Detlef Latka said that the investment will help future proof Hochwald’s production footprint. “We set our strategic direction in line with the current and future requirements of the market five years ago,”​ he reflected. “A core element of this was the construction of a highly efficient and future-orientated plant – precisely what we are opening today.”

When fully operational will turn 800m kilogrammes of raw milk per year into value added products including long-life milk, long-life cream, long-life milkshakes and condensed milk. It can produce up to 1.4bn packages of finished product per year. Production started to be phased in at the site in January as the company gradually re-located processing from its Erftsadt plant.

Discussing the benefits of the new plant at the opening ceremony, Hochwald said it is setting ‘new standards’ in terms of automation and digitalisation. All the processes are ‘perfectly matched’ with each other and ‘extensively’ automated and digitalised. “This makes the Hochwald plant the most up-to-date dairy plant in Europe,”​ the company claimed.

The dairy group was able to achieve this because it developed the facility from a greenfield site. According to Thorsten Oberschmidt, this was both a ‘great advantage’ and one of the ‘main challenges’ of the project. “An advantage in the sense that we could perfectly picture the resource flows in the new buildings and a challenge because with such an investment, we obviously wanted to retain a certain flexibility for future market developments.”

Provision for future growth and the increased capacity that this would require has been taken into account with the opportunity to add bottling plants to the operation.

“Mechernich signifies the start of a new phase of development for Hochwald,”​ Latka declared.

Securing the future of regional dairy production

“In many ways, the Mechernich plant is a flagship project,”​ chairman of the Hochwald Milch cooperative Peter Manderfeld added. “It demonstrates the resolve and capacity to act that a cooperative has. For us as milk producers, it ensures milk prodution in the region and contributes to a good milk price.”

Addressing around 200 guests at the opening ceremony, Secretary of State for Agruculture of North Rhine Westphalia, Dr Heinrich Bottermann, said that investments like this will help secure the future of agricultural production in the region. “North Rhine Westphalia is a great location for the food industry. We are happy to see that the new dairy plant is helping to sustain it. Milk can be produced very sustainably and efficiently here,”​ he suggested.

Andy Becht, State Secretary in the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry for Economic Affairs, also highlighted the importance of dairy as the ‘backbone’ of agriculture in the middle mountain regions. “The dairy industry as a whole plays an essential role in the Eifel region. As it preserves and maintains beautiful cultural landscapes, it also creates the conditions that other sectors reply on, such as rural tourism. My ministry continuously works towards the ongoing development of high-quality and powerful regional milk production”

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