The Sartori Co., Plymouth, Wis., is a fourth generation, family-owned and operated cheese manufacturing company. When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011, one its areas of focus was the loading dock environment. According to FSMA, docks can be a high-risk zone for food defense and facility security. Sara Adams, manager of manufacturing excellence, was charged with implementing new regulations like FSMA and making sure the company’s 300 employees were living by those standards.

“We wanted to use the best equipment possible to ensure compliance with this new food law for the next 20-plus years,” says Adams.

Facility design considerations

In keeping with that philosophy, safety, security and controlling the dock environment and cold chain were Sartori’s top priorities when it designed a new state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot cheese converting facility.

The design process began on the outside of the building, with the installation of vehicle restraints. To prevent theft, reduce contamination and improve the safety of workers at the dock, Sartori chose Dok-Lok automatic restraints from Rite-Hite, Milwaukee, Wis. The Dok-Lok wraps around a trailer’s rear-impact guard, securing the trailer to the loading dock. Unlike wheel chocks, it prevents trailer separation accidents while deterring theft, and can even interface with a company’s security system. The tight Dok-Lok connection between the trailer and the loading dock also reduces holes, gaps and other openings where dirt, debris, insects and other environmental contaminants can enter the building.

Trailer access was the next issue addressed. Once a trailer is secure at Sartori’s loading dock, Rite-Hite’s RHV Vertical Storing Dock Leveler helps maintain security, environmental control and cold chain integrity. To combat security issues, the vertical leveler allows trailer doors to open inside the facility via Rite-Hite’s “drive-through” application. The seal is broken inside the building by Sartori staff (vs. outside by the truck driver), which helps to ensure that product has not been tampered with, damaged or stolen.

Opening the trailer doors inside the warehouse also helps with environmental control, as there is no exposure to outside elements, like precipitation, wind or dust. Additionally, the vertical leveler allows dock doors to be closed directly on the pit floor, creating a tight seal, which minimizes points of entry at the loading dock to further help maintain environmental control. And finally, the vertical design makes it easy to clean and wash down the pit floor when the leveler is stored in the upright position.

Cold chain integrity, inside and out

The drive-through application of vertical levelers also plays a key role in maintaining the cold chain integrity of the facility, helping keep Sartori’s dock at an ideal 34-36°F. The tight Dok-Lok connection between trailer and dock protects the cold chain, since it helps prevent air infiltration from the outside during loading and unloading. 

Inside the building, Sartori addressed cold chain integrity by installing Rite-Hite’s LiteSpeed high-speed doors to separate the de-boxing and de-palletizing room from the processing room. The ability of these doors to open and close quickly (up to 65 inches per second) helps minimize air infiltration, temperature change and contamination between the two rooms.

As a result of their comprehensive design approach, Sartori was able to ensure quality of the products flowing through the dock of its new facility, from the arrival of raw materials through shipping off of finished products.

“The vertical leveler/drive-through application is great for food processing facilities, as are the other Rite-Hite products,” says Adams. “The regulatory requirements and our customers expect us to maintain the cold chain. With the system we now have in place, there are no temperature fluctuations inside the dock area regardless of the weather outside.”