To start by stating the obvious: when it comes to cheesemaking, the equipment is critical. And while we here at Tetra Pak are manufacturers of said equipment, we still like to dive a little deeper. Go beyond all that stainless steel. Identify what really makes a good cheese – or rather, help our customers produce their good cheese as efficiently and consistently as possible.
So what else – besides equipment – does count? Here’s Joanna Ilczyszyn, Commercial Manager for the fresh and semi-hard cheese categories, and Technical Line Solutions Manager Mark Steffens to guide us through the core components of a holistic approach to cheesemaking.
Joanna: “In simple words, everything is about the customer’s needs. Our customers see us a partners, which is why we need to be in the know about consumers and markets. We are not just producing solutions to fulfill parameters or performances, we are working for the end-users. And that is not only dairy producers, but also consumers.” Mark: “Every customer and every cheese are unique. And we don't want to change their identity. We just want to improve our customer’s ability to make cheese. That could mean they’ll be able to make cheese faster, or more efficiently, or less expensively – but we always want to honour the identity of their product."
Mark: “For me, it comes down to our people. We have in total over 100 years of plant management experience, and we bring that added value to our customers. We can help them modify recipes, run equipment more efficiently, identify bottlenecks ... and our customers are really interested in people who can solve their problems, people who can get out on the floor, get dirty and wet, and go through the challenges in terms of how to design a process, how to design a piece of equipment that that is robust and lasts.”
Joanna: “Every team and person have unique competences and knowledge. But no-one can singlehandedly answer all the questions that are coming from the markets. That's impossible. So we need the best competences for every case to exactly meet the customer’s needs. That’s why we’re using cross-discipline teams. We’ll have a project engineer, someone who knows who to design a line, and two or three disciplines we need to combine. It is about technology, portfolio management, automation and what kind of equipment we need to add. We strive to be holistic - we need to understand the need, create the solution and have the people and capabilities to implement.” Mark: “We have learnings from our global organisation that we can rely on for problem-solving. Questions, lessons learned, and the benefit of cross-functional skills, whether it's from milk processing, whey processing, or powder processing and handling.”
Joanna: “Maintenance is not only about mechanical stuff on the machine, but also expert services, automation controls and technological support. So when our customers buy our solutions, they are also buying long-term operational support with logical descriptions of the service activities that will happen within the next few years. And that will pay off at the end. The equipment will keep delivering very similar performances as it did the first year.” Mark: “We help existing plants with audits and evaluations. We use a questionnaire to get answers on where the customer wants to go. Based on that, we'll suggest potential solutions for them to consider, or troubleshoot and optimize what they have.”
Mark: “An example: one of the important attributes is the age of the cheese. The customer is making process choices that affect how their cheese ages. And because even the cheese business lives in a supply chain world, controlling the aging and the delivery processes is important. So we can help the customer realize what parts of the manufacturing process today affect the cheese in 60 or 90 or 120 days. As we make more product, and make it faster, those details potentially become more important, so we help the customer understand how they've arrived at the unique cheese they have – and how we can preserve that uniqueness with a new process.”
Mark: “We know how to make cheese, and we understand how our customers want to make cheese. So they trust us to provide a solution that does exactly what they want.” Joanna: “We love to be a one-stop shop for our customers and really deliver everything. But if we are a part of an integrated project, it's also good for us. Because then we can challenge what we have and what we know – and learn.”
Mark: “A large organisation is valuable in terms of the sheer size of talent available. But geography is also very important. Our customers are becoming more and more international and have plants in many parts of the world. They expect to see that the same group of people and competences are available. That's the value to them and to our international partners.” Joanna: “If there’s a problem somewhere, we can search for a solution within the whole company. Because there are people around the globe working with similar products and similar equipment. When we can connect those dots, we can be super-efficient servicing customers globally.”