changes – The Corporate Blog

Sustainable success

The Berchtesgadener Land dairy sits at the crossroads of conventional farming and modern process technology. Although the mountain farmers, who are organized around a dairy cooperative, still rely on a traditional and extensive approach, earnings are nevertheless higher than average thanks to IIoT technology.

Sustainable success - the Berchtesgadener Land dairy sits at the crossroads of conventional farming and modern process technology. The setting is right out of an advertising brochure. The Berchtesgadener Land region is marked by gentle valleys, rocky peaks and alluring villages. Even the cows that graze in small herds on the verdant meadows appear remarkably satisfied. Visitors easily gain the impression that if there is one place where the world is in order, it’s here in the southeastern most part of Germany.

To some extent, it’s an illusion. “We’ve been dealing with global environmental problems such as climate change and dying insect populations for some time already,” says Bernhard Pointner. The managing director of the Berchtesgadener Land dairy in Piding is deeply involved in these issues. After all, the natural environment visible through his office windows is the foundation of the dairy’s products. One thing Bernhard Pointner is sure of: “Mankind is living on borrowed time and at the expense of future generations.”

Sustainable, through and through
The Berchtesgadener Land dairy doesn’t just pay lip service to sustainability. The entire operation is designed completely with the environment and efficiency in mind. “Our members decided to actively position the cooperative against the destruction of planet,” says Bernhard Pointer. For that reason, protection of the environment, fair treatment of people and animals and conservation of our natural resources have been top of the agenda for many years.

In a unanimous vote, Berchtesgadener Land’s management and supervisory boards recently prohibited the use of broad-spectrum herbicides like glyphosate on pastures and farmlands owned by the cooperative’s members with immediate effect. While this approach creates extra effort, it pays off economically, as well as socially. “Fortunately, more and more people are willing to pay for high-quality products produced under fair conditions,” emphasizes Bernhard Pointner.

Ubiquitous digitalization
To lay claim to its position as an environmental trailblazer, the dairy relies on state-of-the-art technology. More than 100 million euros have been invested in production and logistics systems since 1986. The dairy maintains its own fleet of tank trucks to collect the raw milk daily. The cruise control systems in the trucks, which are coupled to the navigation systems, take into account the conditions of the mountainous terrain during acceleration and braking. The result is that each journey is optimized from an energy standpoint.

The dairy is continuously expanded and updated to improve and enhance the operational flows and processes. The recently completed power house as well as the milk receiving station and the CIP (cleaning in place) system that are under construction are all testament to this strategy. “Digitalization of the systems is our biggest challenge,” adds Bernhard Pointner.  Today, nearly all the measurement values related to the processes, utilities and energy consumption are fed into a computer system.

The data is used for monitoring purposes, as well as to control the various systems. A dense network of measurement points runs across the entire operation. Even Andreas Holleis, Manager of Process Automation, doesn’t know the exact number of instruments. “All told it’s certainly in the several thousands and growing,” he adds. And nearly all of them are adorned with the blue Endress+Hauser logo.

Under control: Thousands of instruments help Florian Lexhaller (right) optimize the plant technology at Berchtesgadener Land dairy.

Thousands of instruments help Florian Lexhaller (right) optimize the plant technology at Berchtesgadener Land dairy.

Trustworthy and reliable
The Berchtesgadener Land dairy relies almost exclusively on Endress+Hauser for its process measurement technology. And that has a lot to do with people. From the Endress+Hauser sales office in Munich, Friedhelm Möginger has managed and supported the customer for a good 25 years. “One focus of my activities is coordinating third parties, such as plant builders and service providers, in the dairy’s many projects.”

Whenever measurement technology is being specified for a new project, Friedhelm Möginger provides advice and consultation during the selection of instruments, components and systems. “On the one hand, one of the challenges is identifying the right measurement principle and right instrument model for each task,” explains the sales engineer. “On the other hand, we want to keep the variety of instruments to a minimum in order to keep the spare parts inventory lean.” The hygiene areas require completely different models than those applied in utilities, for instance. The cleaning and disinfection solutions used in the CIP process also have special requirements.

The engineers at the dairy are completely satisfied with the quality and reliability of the Endress+Hauser instruments. “The bottom line is, everything works. We have little to do with the instruments,” says Technical Director Florian Lexhaller. He admits that problems have cropped up here and there over the years. “It’s when things get tough and you have to find a solution that you can recognize a good partner.”

High degree of efficiency
Berchtesgadener Land recently commissioned a new power house, “a genuine showcase project when it comes to sustainability,” says Managing Director Bernhard Pointner with pride. A gas turbine generates electricity from natural gas. An ample 1.6 to 2.0 megawatts of electricity flows directly into the milk production process. The new power house boasts total energy efficiency of more than 90 percent. “The turbine pays off economically, as well as environmentally.”

The thermal energy from the gas turbine is used to create steam. “Steam is one of the most costly forms of energy in a process plant,” explains Florian Lexhaller. “We need steam at many different points.” As if that were not enough, the residual heat from the steam plant is then used to produce warm water for the process and heat the office building. The company uses measurement engineering from Endress+Hauser to control the system, track the energy flows and monitor the energy cycles.

Sustainable success: Organic farmer Johann Angerer (left) benefits as a member of the cooperative from the dairy’s smart strategy.

Sustainable success: Organic farmer Johann Angerer (left) benefits as a member of the cooperative from the dairy’s smart strategy.

Steep hillsides, hard work
Organic farmer Johann Angerer runs his farm virtually devoid of technology. The family-owned operation, with just 10 milking cows, is one of the smallest members of the cooperative. He manages his pastures without machines. “The hillsides are too steep to use tractors. We still rely on pure muscle power!”

Like the other members of the cooperative, Johann Angerer benefits from the relatively high prices that the dairy is able to pay for the raw milk that is delivered. Angerer is thus fully behind the dairy’s sustainable strategy. “What they are doing is just great,” says the farmer. “And over the long term, it’s the right way to go.” While he talks, his cows crane their necks time and again, as if endorsing his comments. That the world is a little more in order in the Berchtesgadener Land region than other places is perhaps not far from the truth.

More information, interesting facts about the Milchwerke Berchtesgadener Land Chiemgau eG and an interview with Friedhelm Möginger, sales engineer at Endress+Hauser Germany, can be found in our latest issue of the changes magazine.

Posted from Reinach, Basel-Landschaft, Switzerland.

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