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Wayne Farms Completes Decatur Expansion

By Kris Carroll

Wayne Farms

After more than a year of planning and construction, Wayne Farms is about to complete a major expansion of its Decatur further processing facility. The project includes two new production lines, one of which began operations in May. The second line is scheduled to start up next week.

The $25.4 million expansion is the third since operations began at the facility in 1998. It will add approximately 120 new jobs to the current workforce of 240 and increase Wayne Farms' further processing capacity by approximately 40 million pounds a year.

The expansion will help the company meet its strategic growth objectives as well as the increasing production needs of its business partners. "This expansion is not only an increase in capacity for Wayne Farms. It also represents our commitment to our customers to support their business," says Wayne Farms President and CEO Elton Maddox. "Demand for our products, and for further-processed poultry in general, is increasing. The Decatur expansion is focused specifically on our customers and their needs, but it also takes into account the market demand we see on the horizon. This allows us to meet our goals and stay on track with our growth plan, while also serving our existing customers."

Already in the planning stages early last year, the project was accelerated following last May's devastating fire at the Oakwood further processing facility. Construction in Decatur began three months later.

The Decatur facility was chosen not only because of its ideal geographic location, both from a raw material supply and finished goods distribution standpoint, but also because it is one of Wayne Farms' most advanced processing facilities. "The original construction of the plant was designed for easy expansion," notes Jimmy Kemp, Director of Operations, Further Processing.

The first of the two lines (Line 45) began production on May 17 and is scheduled for a full scale-up by September. It is designed to produce fully cooked, roasted products. The second line (Line 46), which begins operations next week, will produce fully cooked, breaded products.

Line 45 at the Decatur further processing plant. The new line produces fully cooked, roasted products for a wide range of Wayne Farms customers. It began operations on May 17.

Because the breaded line is Decatur's first breading operation, the company conducted extensive training over the last six months to prepare existing as well as new employees for full production. Don Dubnik, who has been the Operations Manager in Decatur during previous expansions, utilized resources from both inside and outside the company to prepare the team during the construction process.

Don Belcher, Maintenance Manager; Joseph Adeshakin and Chap Sipper, Superintendents; and Mike Hudson, Production Supervisor – all previous employees at the Oakwood facility (which had a breaded line) – were also instrumental in helping to ready the Decatur facility and the team.

Under the leadership of Chief Engineer Gary Heine, the design team, which included Tony Neely, Engineering Manager, and Kurt Andrews, Assistant Operations Manager, worked closely with three main vendors: Vaughn Coltrane Pharr and Associates (engineering), Turner Universal (general contractor) and FMC (equipment purveyor). Their diligence helped the project meet strict timelines without sacrificing quality.

Neil Martin, Plant Manager at Wayne Farms' Bossier City facility (which also has a breaded line), was also brought in during the expansion to add his knowledge of breading and frying.

Jimmy Kemp also credits Decatur's new Operations Manager, Ed Parker, and the entire Decatur team for their commitment and hard work in making the expansion go smoothly.

Originally built to produce product for Campbell Soup Company, the Decatur facility now produces for many of Wayne Farms' strategic partners, which represent all segments of the foodservice industry. The new lines will produce product for Nestlé, ConAgra Frozen Foods, Jack in the Box, Costco, and the company's own foodservice line.

In all, the plant has now reached its full production potential, and increased its capacity by 200% over the last four years.

"The expansion is allowing us to continue to grow with our customers," says John Jetton, Director of Business Development, who adds that the company has already committed the capacity on both of the new lines. "Because we have been so successful utilizing these lines, we are beginning to investigate the development of our future capacity."ContiGroup Globe

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