Name: Ryan O'Donnell
Years with Westby: 10+
Position: Assistant Plant Manager
Hello! I’m Ryan O’Donnell, Assistant Plant Manager at the Westby Cooperative Creamery manufacturing plant. I’ve been here since May, 2006; and a lot has happened in that timeframe. Over the past ten years, our business has more than tripled in the amount of milk delivered by our member-owners; tripled in the pounds of dairy food products manufactured, and tripled in the number of employees.
Annually, our family dairy farm members now produce and deliver over 160-million pounds of fresh milk, both conventional and certified-organic, to this facility. From this milk; we manufacture over 26-million pounds of cottage cheeses, sour creams, dairy dips, yogurts, cheese curds and hard cheeses; and employ 140 people.
It has been exciting to be part of this consistent growth, which has provided me with opportunities to advance my professional career. I attended the University of Wisconsin at Richland Center, and later received my degree in Business Administration. At that time, I joined a dairy foods manufacturing business in Richland Center.
After a couple years of experience there, I took a positon here as Pasteurization System Operator. I was then promoted to a Processing Supervisor, then to the position of Production Planner, and then to Assistant Plant Manager.
One of my duties as Assistant Plant Manager is to plan daily and weekly product production; which includes milk supply, processing stages, ingredient inventories, and product packaging requirements. I’m involved with everything from one end of the plant to the other.
At one end of the plant we receive up to 400,000 pounds of member-milk each day. This milk is processed daily, throughout the plant, into thousands of pounds of dairy foods; which are packaged and shipped to our Distribution Center at the other end of the plant. Each day is different, and includes working with the latest food production technologies and the craftsmanship of our many experienced employees.
We usually produce up to 8 different products each day, from conventional and organic milk. These products may range from hundreds of cases of 6-ounce products, to thousands of cases of multi-ounce or 5-pound products, to 40-pound lined boxes, to 400-pound barrels, to 2500-pound reusable totes. Each to a specific product formulation or recipe.
Westby Cooperative Creamery is one of only a few dairy cooperatives in North America that receives two types of milk from its members. Some of our members produce what is referred to as conventional-milk, and others produce certified-organic-milk; both of which are r-BST-free. From these two milk sources we have the ability to manufacture a diverse product line for our many customers. In addition to our own Westby brand, we manufacture products for other consumer-retail brands, food service distributors, and as ingredients for other foods.
Our Production Crews operate this manufacturing facility 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These crews work two 12-hour shifts per day, on a rotation through weekdays and weekends of 3-days-on and 2-days-off. Some days I work a 12-hour shift from 5:00am to 5:00pm; other days are 8:00am to 5:00pm; it all depends on what’s happening in the plant for a given day.
We work within a highly-regulated food industry; so, my job as Assistant Plant Manager also involves a lot of processing documentation and reporting. We have Food Inspectors from the state of Wisconsin in our plant every three months. Our own Quality Control personnel are conducting checks at various stages of the product production process every fifteen minutes.
I work with a great team of people, and it takes teamwork to produce our high-quality and award-winning dairy food products. Every employee takes product quality as a personnel responsibility, which is why we are all proud of our industry-leading SQF Certification.
Westby Cooperative Creamery has repeatedly earned the Certificate of Registration in meeting the Safe Quality Food (SQF) requirements of the SQF Code, 7th Edition, Level 3: Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Management System. Administered by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the SQF Program is a food safety management system. SQF is recognized around the world as the leading certification program for food safety in manufacturing and distribution.
As a cooperative of family dairy farms, with a history of more than 100-years, we are part of a dynamic food industry from farm-to-fridge. I am often reminded of growing up on my own family farm in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, which has been in my family for over 150 years.
I know well of the hard work that it takes every day, on the farm and in this manufacturing plant, to produce the highest quality and nutritious dairy foods that are enjoyed by thousands of families every day. Including my own family; with wife, Ann, and two daughters; Breeley (age 7) and Kiley (age 6), who love to eat Westby brand Cottage Cheese and Cheese Curds.
Remember, when you -- Take home country goodness from the family dairy farms of Westby Cooperative Creamery – you also take home country goodness from me -- Ryan O'Donnell, and my fellow employees.
And for that, we all say THANKS!