Cabazon Takes the ‘LEED’

Nestlé Waters’ Cabazon, Calif., plant is one of the company’s newest facilities, and was built with both high performance production goals and environmental considerations in mind. This summer, the plant received a Silver rating from the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program of the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first food manufacturing plant and one of only a few industrial facilities in the country to earn the distinction.
The Cabazon plant is located between Palm Springs and Los Angeles on reservation land owned by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. A sustainable design was important to both parties, says Operations Manager Mike Franceschetti: “With the tribe as our partner, it was the goal from the very concept [of the plant]. They’re very environmentally conscious.”
The plant opened in April 2003, and includes a number of “green” features such as recycled construction materials, energy-efficient systems and water-saving fixtures — and it’s managed to do so while maintaining the high-speed operations expected of today’s Nestlé Waters plants.
Bottled at the source
The 390,000-square foot Cabazon facility is located at the base of the mountain from which it sources spring water, and produces Arrowhead brand spring water, and occasionally, the Nestlé Pure Life brand. It houses five and a half bottling lines and produces 24 million cases per year.
To avoid extra shipping costs, Nestlé Waters prefers to keep bottling operations as close as possible to the final product destination so some of the water from Cabazon’s spring is hauled by tanker trucks to other California plants, and some is bottled onsite. Water from the spring is pumped to the facility and held in three 60,000-gallon silos outside the plant.
Once inside the plant, the water undergoes two micro-filtration processes — once to remove particles such as sand that might have come in from the outside, and once to ensure it is free from any micro-organisms. The water then goes through ultraviolet treatment as a final safety measure. Filtering operations are located at each bottling line, allowing the water to move straight from filtration to the bottling line.
Filtration and other quality measures are performed by the quality control department, which frequently tests for things such as total dissolved solids (TDS), turbidity, pH, bacteria and water levels in the silos. It also is responsible for the plant’s clean-in-place (CIP) sanitation system.
“We monitor [the water] all the time — before the filters, after the filters, in the silos, on the lines…” says Quality Manager Judie Chapman.
“QA has a pretty important job because they not only check all the water to make sure it’s within specification, but they also make sure there is plenty of water to go to all the other facilities.”
Vertically integrated
Like Nestlé Waters Hollis, Maine, plant, the Cabazon facility not only blowmolds its own bottles, but manufactures its own PET preforms. PET resin is stored in 100,000-pound-capacity silos and from there is vacuum-blown into a dryer to remove any moisture in the resin.
The melted resin is made into preforms on one of two injection molders, cooled, fed to an orienter that turns them right-side up, and then air conveyed to one of six blowmolders. Molding is a precise job, with heat distributed to different parts of the preform depending on how far they need to stretch. At the same time, the thread fitting that will hold the cap is protected from the heat. The process takes only seconds, and the bottle is stretched and blown into shape in one quick revolution of the machine.
The newly formed bottles are air conveyed by the neck to the filling line where they are filled and capped in enclosed, hepa-filtered areas. The high-speed lines fill about 1,000 bottles per minute, and three of them are dedicated to the half-liter size. The plant also produces a number of other bottle sizes from 8-ounces to 1.5-liters, all PET.
After filling, scanners verify that bottles are filled to the correct height and caps are securely applied, and a tamper-evident band is placed on the bottle. The bottles are then labeled with a single wraparound paper label and are coded with the date, time and location of production.
From the labeler, the bottles are conveyed to the case packer, which wraps film around the carton and heat-shrinks the wrap onto the case. The case is then coded with the same information that is put on each bottle. Case configurations include 24-packs, 28-packs and 32-packs, and the plant soon will have a packaging line for the new 12-ounce refrigerator-friendly Spring Pack.
Cases are roller conveyed to the warehouse, where they are palletized and stretchwrapped. Each pallet is tagged and then scanned to determine its location in the warehouse. Product is shipped from the plant on a first-in, first-out basis.
“The warehouse holds about one million cases, which varies from eight to 10 days’ inventory in the winter to three or four days during the height of summer,” says Factory Manager Gareth Bowen.
One of the realities of operating in southern California is that energy — or a lack of it — can often be an issue. To ensure the plant keeps running, Nestlé installed a 5-megawatt combined heat and power (CHP) generator to cover most of its energy needs.
“We make power, and the heat from the unit is used to reduce some of our utility costs by chilling the water we use to cool the air in the work space and in processing,” Franceschetti says.
Self-guided teams
One of the most important parts of the Cabazon facility’s operation does not take place on the production floor, but in the facility’s debriefing room. The plant takes a team approach to managing operations, and each production team holds a daily meeting to discuss things that went well during each shift and the things that could be done better.
The practice is in keeping with Nestlé Waters’ philosophy of using self-directed work teams. “Managers are there,” Franceschetti says, “but mainly to facilitate. The crew runs the show.” BI