With five universal core brands, including The Laughing Cow®, Kiri®, Leerdammer®, Boursin® and Mini Babybel® and over 25 local brands, the Bel Group is the third largest branded cheese company worldwide. Its products are shipped to over 130 countries and consumed by 400 million consumers around the globe. Bel built its reputation on innovation, brand strength, industrial excellence and its quality and food safety requirements.
Since an American nutritionist praised the qualities of the French cheese The Laughing Cow, in 2003, Bel products started to enjoy great success in the US market. The fourth Mini Babybel cheese plant in Brookings, SD is a response to growing demand for Mini Babybel cheese in the American market. As one of its largest industrial projects, the company wanted this new facility to deploy the latest technology, along with complying with American regulations. This required a high level of international cooperation and the full support of Rockwell Automation.
For the process, mechanization and packaging elements of this project, the key strategies followed were standardisation, safety, energy management and communication. The Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture® system coupled to an EtherNet/IP™ communication infrastructure has helped to make Brookings a smart, safe and sustainable plant. It has also given the company access to all the benefits inherent with The Connected Enterprise: a full interoperability with corporate networks and industrial applications, which helps to get the utmost added value from the large volume of information delivered throughout the plant.
“The Brookings factory in South Dakota is the fourth production unit for Mini Babybel of the Group, but it’s also “our biggest industrial project in the last fifty years,” explains Christian Bagourd, engineering manager at Bel. 144 million dollars (112.6 million euros) were invested to build an up to date cheese plant with the most modern technologies. Therefore, the decision was taken to deploy Rockwell Automation products. “The brand is well-known in the USA, and we thought it would be easier to find technicians trained to use these solutions,” elaborates Bagourd. Another primary advantage was that Rockwell Automation employees, experienced and aware of the newest American rules and regulations, assisted BEL’s project team to adapt the process accordingly.