Productionline Lamb Weston / Meijer Russia

Together with local consortium Belaya Dacha, Lamb Weston / Meijer realised a large-scale production line in Russia for frozen potato products. The total investment amounts to over 100 million euro.

Lamb Weston / Meijer is a leading manufacturer of potato products serving the high-end segment world-wide. Each production phase is all about quality consistency. Van den Pol has been supporting industrial automation projects and building-specific installations for years.

Trusted partners
A brand-new factory for frozen potato products in Lipetsk, Russia. “A production line of this magnitude is a first for the country, “says Arjan Taal, Manufacturing IT and Process Control manager. Local partner Belaya Dacha took care of the building, including civil and most utility installations. “The production line itself was fully realised by us, supported by trusted partners for equipment and machinery. Van den Pol was responsible for the entire process all the way to packaging. “Lamb Weston / Meijer selected the company based on their programmatic approach and extensive experience abroad”, Taal explains. “In addition, Van den Pol has a strong focus on the integral approach required in this type of project. For example, during the preparation phase they took the initiative to organise regular deliberation sessions with all the stakeholders.”

Constructively critical
Building a factory in Russia is no sinecure. “Elements such as transportation and customs require special attention. The paperwork is daunting: everything has to be just right”. Taal is enthusiastic about collaborating with Belaya Dacha. “Of course, cultural differences exist. It took time for us to understand each other properly and build a relationship of trust. Once that had been achieved, the collaboration proceeded smoothly. If something goes wrong, no fingers are pointed and a solution is sought together instead. I love that make it work attitude. Van den Pol also distinguishes itself in this respect. Their role in the start-up phase, building the enclosures and installations, was top-notch. Supervising this process was no easy task, since Russians sometimes have very different ideas about execution and quality. Several areas of improvement were identified with regards to programming and commissioning. I communicated those during the evaluation and a recent quotation demonstrates that these comments have been taken to heart.”

According to Taal, this defines the collaboration between the two companies. “Feedback is taken seriously. If something needs to be improved, we communicate about it openly. I take a constructively critical approach and like to share my experience in this respect with the engineers and programmers at Van den Pol. This type of exchange benefits us both.”

Closer to the customer
Starting up the production line was an exciting moment. “Especially since three new elements were coming together. First of all, there’s the resource; we use locally cultivated potatoes. Then, the machinery and equipment are new and we are dealing with new people. The challenge is to get that interplay under control.”

Monitoring is partially done from the Netherlands. “As with our other foreign factories, remote access allows us to join them live and provide support if necessary.

As of late 2019, the new factory is expected to process around 200,000 tonnes of potatoes every year, primarily into products for fast-food chains. This gives the position of Lamb Weston / Meijer a considerable impulse. “We were already supplying Russian clients with products from the Netherlands. Now, logistics have been dramatically reduced as we are operating even closer to the customer.”