Since our weather in Chicago over the last few weeks of ‘spring’ has either featured monsoon-like rain, impenetrable clouds, and/or arctic chill (sometimes all at once) we thought we try to do our part to entice warm weather to appear by this week covering a project for our Throwback Thursday feature which screams having fun in sunshine and warmth – 1988’s ice cream processing plant for Carnation in Bakersfield, California. For this $80M ($165M in 2017), 225,000 square foot plant, Epstein served as the design/builder responsible for delivering what at the time was the world’s largest ice cream manufacturing facility.
This plant, which was designed to produce 35 million gallons of ice cream and frozen novelty items per year, was engineered by Epstein to surpass the stringent California Energy Code and, therefore, it features numerous systems to help reduce energy costs. Because an ice cream plant requires extensive refrigeration and environmental air conditioning, the entire facility is heavily insulated to keep cool air in and the California heat out. On the process side, the plant’s automated machinery and energy controls were integrated into one system, allowing for the precise calculation of the energy usage necessary to produce each item -- an innovation for 1988 that allowed for optimize energy usage and lead to greater cost reductions for Carnation.
Epstein designed the building with an eye toward future growth. The designers sited the building to facilitate later expansion in "blocks" of structure. Mechanical systems were also positioned in the plant to permit expansion without disrupting production. A suspended "walk-on" ceiling allowed for the modification of utility piping without disturbing production areas. And, Epstein’s in-house process and material handling engineers designed all product manufacturing and provided conveyor and storage engineering design.
This project also involved the design and installation of refrigeration systems that consisted of two low stages and two high stages. The Carnation refrigeration system also produced chilled water for plant air conditioning requirements and chilled propylene glycol for process uses, and the system was completely controlled by a central Digital Data Controlled (DDC) building management system.
This plant also featured a large Automated Storage/Automated Retrieval (AS/RS) that was cooled to -20°F. The Carnation AS/RS was a four-aisle, double-deep rack supported facility designed to seismic zone four requirements. Storage capacity was approximately 7,000 pallet positions. Unit loads were automatically deposited and retrieved under computer control with manual override available. Orders were filled on a "first-in/first-out" inventory basis with unit loads automatically delivered to the loadout dock. And a display panel at the fork lift pick-up station informs the driver where to deliver the loads.
In addition to our extensive engineering innovations for this plant, Epstein’s interior architects and designers took great care to ensure a pleasant work environment for all employees. A dining room/recreation area, separate from the main production rooms, provided a visual change from the work place while encouraging a more social and relaxing environment for mealtimes. Break areas were planned throughout the plant for employee convenience, and acoustic insulation in all production areas helped reduced noise levels.
Epstein’s design of this plant was extremely well-received and in March of 1989 was awarded ‘New Plant of the Year’ by Food Engineering magazine.
Lastly, this plant which was fully operational on October 19, 1988 is still in use today, although now it’s operated by Dreyer’s, and after a recent expansion, is once again, the world’s largest.