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Capacity Increase: Whey By-Product Production

Increased the capacity of a whey by-product manufacturing process by 31% in 3 months


Industrial By-Product Processing – Whey Protein By-Products


Increase the capacity of the by-product processing stream by 10%, to ensure that whey production is not delayed by inability to process by-products and costly outsourcing is avoided

Project Length

3 months, 1.5 consultants


  • Capacity of the by-product processing stream increased by 31% in three months
  • By-product process feed tanks completely drained within weeks of project end as bottleneck shifted upstream to a different process
  • All outsourcing of by-product and landspreading stopped 
  • $350,000 saving in energy no longer needed for evaporation process

Why was Chartwell brought on board?

Production increases to meet consumer demand in the neighbouring cheese plant had increased the supply of cheese-making by-products to the whey facility. These increases meant that the whey by-product processing stream was no longer able to keep up with the required volumes, and all storage tanks had been filled.

To avoid expensive outsourcing or landspreading of the whey by-products, Chartwell was brought in to see how much additional capacity could be obtained from the existing processes.

Key Workstreams

Overall Strategy

The team calculated the capacity of all steps involved in by-product processing, identifying the continuous evaporation step as the overall bottleneck. This became the focus for the team's improvement efforts

Increasing Process Solids

Running the evaporator at a higher solids % enables a higher throughoput rate to be obtained in the same run time. 

Working with process experts and the plant operational team, the team worked through a series of trials to determine how high the solids could be increased without creating problems for the operators and what parameters could be altered to mitigate these issues. 

In the end, the team were able to increase feed solids by >10%, while maintaining the same process feed rate

This had a secondary benefit of reducing water consumption by >10 million litres per year, and evaporation energy consumption by >5TJ per year

Increasing process run time
  • To increase overall throughput of the machine, runtime was a second key lever. 
  • Every 24 hours, the machine underwent a CIP process to ensure that it was fully clean and sterile - however, the length of this process and the number of times each subprocess was run was highly variable, based on the perceived cleanliness of the machineby the operators
  • Investigating the cleaning process programming, the team identified programming changes that were causing part of the cleaning agent to be diverted to the drain during recirculation cycles and reducing cleaning effectiveness
  • By fixing this issue and working with the operations team to draw up best practice standard procedures for cleaning, the team was able to increase the fraction of time in every 24hr cycle spent running

Making Improvement Sustainable
  • Using the historian data available at the plant, the team developed visualisation tools to show the last 24hrs performance in an easy to understand way, and highlight repeated cleaning processes
  • The team implemented a daily production meeting where the lead operators from each shift could review issues from the previous 24 hours flagged in the visualised data and elsewhere, and draw up a plan for resolving them
  • Progress against improvement goals was reviewed with plant management in a weekly meeting, following a set structure to highlight successes and failures, and key decisions to make