Name: Lori Whitney
Years with Westby: 6
Position: Machine Operator
Hello; I'm Lori Whitney, and I help produce the highest quality dairy food products here at Westby Cooperative Creamery by operating a product filling/packaging machine. The machine I operate is a newer 4-lane filler, used for final product packaging of yogurts and cottage cheeses. Other machines and operators handle our sour creams and dairy dip products; and still others handle our cheese curds and hard cheese products.
There's a lot more to my job then just pushing a start-button and watching a machine operate. There's machine set-up, to get ready for the packaging run of a particular product; then machine tear-down and clean-up between product runs. This can sometimes take hours to conduct, because so much is involved in the extensive sanitation process of flushing lines and washing equipment parts. Then there's a thorough inspection and approval process by our Lab Department personnel before the machine is ready for the next product packaging run.
As you can imagine, sanitation is a big part of the process in making a safe dairy food product. We're well aware of the regulations and processes that must be followed every day to ensure food safety and the highest product quality.
Operating the machine includes loading product containers and foil or hard cap lids, monitoring fill operations, container sealing, product sample weighing and recording, and checks on finished product case packing. There's always something to check, double-check, or keep an eye on; so, the work shift goes by quickly. And, there's plenty of teamwork involved.
I work with other machine operators, product packers, lab and maintenance personnel, and product production supervisors. As said, food safety is extremely important; and worker safety is equally so. We receive plenty of training and reminders on worker safety; and wear eye and ear protection, hairnets, and gloves. Our work uniforms are provided at no cost to an employee. Safety toe boots are also provided at no cost. If we choose to purchase our own boots, then we are reimbursed up to $90.00 per year for a pair of boots that meet company requirements.
Our manufacturing facility operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On a scheduled work day; I work a 12-hour daily shift, with paid time-off for breaks and meals. My shift is from 5:00am to 5:00pm; with a rotation through weekdays and weekends of 3-days-on and 2-days-off, then 2-days-on and 3-days-off. So, I essentially have a 3-day-weekend every other week; which I really enjoy.
I was born nearby in La Crosse; and then my family moved to Janesville, where I finished high school. Shortly after that, my family moved back to the area and we settled in Westby. After working in Viroqua for several years, I made the move to Westby Cooperative Creamery six years ago. I had experience operating machinery in a different manufacturing facility; so, it was a relatively easy and quick transition for me.
We produce over 25-million pounds of cultured dairy foods and cheeses every year in our Creamery plant. It's sometimes hard to imagine how many millions of individual product containers have been filled by machine operators like me over the many years that Westby Cooperative Creamery has been in business. It's great to be part of a successful and growing business, with such a long history in our community.
My family and I eat these dairy food products that I help to produce, and I get a big kick out seeing our Westby brand products, and the private label brand products we produce, in local food stores; and, in knowing that our products are served in school lunch programs and many healthcare facilities across our state and region. I'm proud to say -- when you take home country goodness from the family dairy farms and employees of Westby Cooperative Creamery - you take home country goodness from me -- Lori Whitney.
And for that, we all say THANKS!