Work is easing ahead with Wenger Manufacturing’s impressive multi-million dollar expansion and upgrade of its renowned Wenger Technical Centre. Privately held and headquartered close by the Company’s Technical Centre in rural America in the town of Sabetha, Kansas, Wenger also has operations in Galena, Kansas and also outside the US in Belgium, Denmark, Taiwan, Brazil and China.
The project plan, with a $13 million budget, was approved and construction began in November. Wenger Technical Centre operations are to run in parallel with construction until the project completion during the fourth quarter of 2020. Wenger is the world’s leading supplier of extrusion cooking systems for food processing with a rich 85-year history.
Wenger systems are most commonly used in food, pet food and treats, aqua-feed and engineered-ingredient processing. With nearly 500 employees worldwide, Wenger operates multiple plants, a world-class innovation and development centre, and various sales and service offices around the globe.
The Technical Centre is a facility dedicated to innovation and continuous improvement of extrusion process systems for food, feed and industrial applications. The Wenger Technical Centre houses full-scale extruders, dryers and ancillary components to provide a ‘real-world’ development environment for extrusion-based products and processes. A recognised proving ground for innovation and training, the centre is used by clients, academia and other industry partners for accelerating product development and operational training. Wenger hired PMI Nebraska LLC as general contractor and will be working with other contractors and suppliers on various aspects of the project, including Pinnacle Electric, PCI Mechanical, Schenck Process, Scott Equipment and IPS.
Says Lafe Bailey, Co-CEO and President of Sales and Corporate Development,“This renovation is a strategic re-investment into a facility that has long served our industries as the critical hub for innovation and continuous improvement. The Technical Centre has held global importance to the extrusion industry since 1954, and we are committed to both renewing, and expanding, the roles and responsibilities that the Wenger Technical Centre holds in the industries we serve.”
The new construction will increase the existing 22,000-square-foot centre’s capacity by 40 per cent, making the facility more scaleable and extending its lifespan long into the future. The modernisation will include enhancing preventative measures for food safety, and the added square footage will make the centre more versatile. It will expand the scope of market-facing services, while also further enhancing existing innovation projects already active in the Wenger pipeline.
Says Brend King, Vice President and Technical Centre Director, “As our industries face increased scrutiny over food safety, the new Wenger Technical Centre will provide a low-risk environment to evaluate prototypes and make sure new products and processes adhere to safety and quality standards. We’re very excited for this expansion as it will allow us to continue helping clients—and Wenger—move ideas from concept to market more quickly.”
By operating commercial-scale equipment, Wenger has the ability to scale up production runs to achieve real-life capacities, which is usually not possible in an R&D environment. Adds Mr Bailey,“By staging a full-scale production setup, clients can truly see what these machines can do, and they don’t have to settle for a projection of performance based on calculations. No other innovation centre of its kind has this breadth of capabilities.”
improved process flow
The approach to the renovation plan is unique in that the new building will be constructed over top of the existing facility while operations continue inside. The first phase is construction of a modern, tension fabric structure that will completely enclose the original building. The second phase entails taking down the original steel structure underneath to create a new space with greater height and depth as well as a greatly improved process flow. The larger capacity will fit full-scale, commercial versions of nearly every piece of equipment Wenger manufactures, whereas today it houses six extruders and two dryers.
Explains Brend King further, “This innovative approach originated from our need to build a world-class innovation and development facility, all while maintaining continuity of current customer and Wenger projects. That continuity is important because the market relies on this facility to meet their goals, and we are committed to keeping it open throughout this process.
Mr King admits the company believes this is a responsible approach that clearly aligns with the Wenger culture of Integrity, Ingenuity and Initiative. He explains, “Instead of tearing down valuable infrastructure and starting over at another site, we’re re-purposing a well-functioning and widely utilised facility that’s already positioned right where we want it,” he says.
industry best practice
The Technical Centre is in very close proximity to Wenger’s primary manufacturing facility in Sabetha, which allows the industry convenient access to other key aspects of Wenger capabilities, as well as other important industry partners located in the region. The improved and modernised Technical Centre operational design was led by the expertise of Wenger’s Corporate Project Services division. It incorporates current and trending industry ‘best practice’ and usability-features in regard to layout and design and processing and facilities management.
Explains Mr King finally,“We have a visionary partner in Legacy Building Solutions, who helped us design the new facility and bring this concept to reality. We believe the Wenger and Legacy approach can also be useful for many of the existing and older operations of our clients. Wenger also is very grateful to the City of Sabetha and the surrounding community, both of which have been exceptional partners since Wenger was first established here in 1935”.
Please email Carrie Walsh if you have further questions or would like to speak directly with Brend King or Lafe Bailey at Wenger.