Fonterra Kauri maintenance engineering manager Rob Woodgates says the team had about six weeks to get the Northland site humming again before the new season kicked off again.
"With such a busy season previously, we really only had one window of opportunity to do this kind of work and optimise our kit for the next 12 months," he says.
"We had some pretty ambitious targets to meet but we got there. We've done the regular compliance maintenance testing, upgrading parts of our manufacturing equipment, and also done some major work on our drains after the flooding earlier this year. It's now all hands on deck to process the milk that is coming in."
Director NZ operations Brent Taylor says each winter when milk flows have eased back, and with many of the cooperative's 26 sites not in production mode, the site teams focus on ensuring their equipment is in top working order.
"This would be one of New Zealand's largest maintenance operations, involving some precise planning and heavy engineering. This year we're spending in excess of $100 million across our sites to get them back in peak condition for the new dairy season," he says.
"It's no easy feat. We have to get an army of local contractors, as well as our own maintenance and operations teams to replace thousands of bearings, valve kits and flush all of our vats.
"We had record amounts of milk flow through our sites last season which meant we had to run most of our plants longer than usual. The shut down period gives our teams the chance to give everything the once over and upgrade any equipment which needs it, so that we can hit the ground running when the milk starts coming again."
Taylor says the cooperative puts a lot of effort into improving its operations to ensure the products it exports to customers around the world are of the best quality.
"In the peak of the season, we've got over 80 million litres of milk arriving from the farms of our 10,500 farmer shareholders each day. New Zealand farmers are known for producing top quality milk and we need to make sure our plants are running at optimum condition so we can maintain that quality right through to processing," he says.
"This year our maintenance spend has included everything from major overhauls of equipment, replacing obsolete parts in plants, to putting in the latest technology to improve overall efficiencies and productivity."