With steeled toe boots and a hair net, Chet Wiersma is ready for a 12-hour shift as a packaging operator at fairlife, a health food company with a milk production facility in Coopersville that produces and markets great tasting, nutrient-dense milk products.
Here’s a typical day for Chet:
6 a.m. – Pass off meeting. The machine I usually run is a blow molder. The machine blows air into small pieces of plastic to make bottles—over 30,000 bottles an hour!—for our milk products. My co-worker coming off-shift tells me how it ran overnight and what problems I might face today.
6:21 a.m. – First sample of the day. Every hour I take a sample and test for errors. I weigh the bottle, cut it into pieces and weigh each piece individually, with a fraction of a gram margin of error. This is one of many checks our products receive.
9 a.m. – Break #1. There are three workers and three machines on line 1. The line is always running, so we cover each other during breaks. I have to know how to run the case packer and labeler machines as well as the blow molder.
9:37 a.m. – Line maintenance. When the line stops for maintenance, I replace worn parts, grease tough spots and clean.
12 p.m. – Lunch. Our break room has a cooler with free fairlife drinks. At first I drank so much milk. Three years later, not nearly as much. My favorite product is our whole milk.
1:41 p.m. – Machine malfunction. I see a couple misshapen bottle forms so I stop the machine. Making machine adjustments is the most interesting part of my job. After trial and error, I’ve figured out what adjustments I have to make and get the machine up and running again.
3 p.m. – Break #2. I’m on my feet all day, so I sit and relax in the break room. Comfortable shoes are a must!
5:02 p.m. – Labeler malfunction. The labeler moves quickly. We use a high-speed camera to see what’s wrong. Before the camera, it was almost impossible to troubleshoot. fairlife is great about getting us the tools we need to do our jobs.
6 p.m. – End of shift. I have a pass off meeting with the person running my blow molder overnight. I work two or three days in a row, followed by two or three days off. I have every other weekend off.
Our recent goal has been to produce 2.5 million cases a month. That’s a lot of milk! The last few months we’ve hit our goal because everyone’s been in the job for a while. We’ve become a “well-oiled machine.” Production slows down a bit when new workers are training, but that gives us a chance to teach them tips and tricks. Before we know it, we’re back at full speed. After about a year, most people are pretty comfortable diagnosing and fixing problems to get their machines back online quickly.