Optimizing a Whey Processing Plant

Simulation-based decision support enables improved production planning and  capacity expansion

In the dairy industry, inconsistent raw materials, various quality standards, multi-product production, material expiry, utility shortages, and a high failure rate of equipment are typical framework conditions. Process simulation and predictive decision support can help engineers to overcome these challenges.


  • Improved robustness of production planning and crisis management
  • Minimized delivery delays due to coordination issues with logistics
  • Enhanced resource efficiency through reliable prediction of material expiry
  • Optimized evaluation and realization of engineering projects

The increasing demand for protein-rich products coupled with a growing interest in resource efficiency and sustainability make the processing of whey from cheese and yogurt production nowadays highly promising. Whey, long considered a low-value by-product, can be transformed into value products in a number of ways that significantly boost the dairy industry’s environmental and economic bottom line.

This use case describes the application of INOSIM Simulation Software to a facility for processing whey from various pre-processes into the main products protein and lactose. In the project, an existing plant of the customer was modeled. The model is used in production and capacity planning, as well as for the evaluation of measures for capacity expansion.


  • Varying raw material composition
  • High quality standards
  • Unplanned equipment downtime
  • Time-consuming and inflexible planning

While whey processing offers numerous benefits, there are several challenges associated with extracting protein and lactose from whey. A major factor is the inconsistency of raw material composition. Parameters such as dry mass content can vary significantly between suppliers, making flexible and easily adaptable process control an absolute must.

Furthermore, the customer faces complexities caused by quality standards (Organic, Halal, Conventional), multi-product production, material expiry, utility shortages and a high failure rate of equipment. Taking these complex yet essential dependencies into account led to considerable difficulties in earlier approaches to modeling the process with other simulation software. However, the customer saw the urgent need to enhance production and capacity planning, as the conventional approach was time-consuming and inflexible, making it impossible to respond quickly to changes in the supply chain or unplanned equipment downtime.


  • Automated recipe selection and process parameter adjustment
  • Heuristics for good process control adapted from real plant
  • IT/OT interface to automatically read input data
  • Using business intelligence solutions to distribute enhanced result visualizations
  • Extended model functionalities to simulate engineering scenarios

With the help of targeted support from INOSIM experts, the customer created a tailored model for the entire whey processing plant. In addition to the main process, parts of the supply chain, the development of product inventory, important utilities such as chilled water, and the CIP infrastructure are considered. The model accounts for varying raw material parameters and target product concentrations with the ability to automatically change production recipes (e. g., one-stage concentration vs. two-stage concentration) and adjust process parameters (e. g., ultrafiltration membrane flow or concentration settings). Heuristics for pooling raw materials and for a priority system in batch schedules are adapted from real plant operations and implemented in the model to minimize issues with material expiry. Input data, such as raw material supply lists and product inventory, are automatically read in via an IT/OT interface.

The model user can optionally interfere and make manual adjustments to the dedication of equipment and the target production planning. Thus, the model user is enabled to quickly react to equipment breakdown or short-term changes in the supply chain. In addition to the built-in INOSIM visualizations, interactive dashboards were created using the modern business intelligence solution Salesforce Tableau. These dashboards are fed and distributed automatically via INOSIM BICON, ensuring all relevant stakeholders are always up-to-date.

During the project, other departments became interested in the simulation model. This gave rise to the idea of supplementing the model with future plant expansions from various early-stage engineering projects to evaluate different scenarios and better assess their impact on capacity.

Input data is automatically loaded when simulation is triggered. Based on intuitive result visualizations, the user can interfere and test the effect of making changes to the planning.


  • Visualization and flexible adjustment of production planning
  • Early detection of bottlenecks
  • Fast response to equipment breakdowns
  • Improved communication with logistics
  • Accurate evaluation of engineering scenarios

The new INOSIM model intuitively visualizes the production and enables the customer to foresee bottlenecks due to equipment allocation, utility shortages or supply chain issues. The ability to simulate sudden equipment failures, anticipate the effect on production and make adjustments in planning as needed has improved the robustness of crisis management significantly. Due to the more accurate prediction of the processes and the ability to react quickly to uncertainties, material expiry issues and the development of inventory can be foreseen much more reliably. As a result, communication with logistics has been sustainably improved.

The model has been applied in decision-making in several engineering projects. For example, when planning a plant expansion, the model was used to evaluate the increased load on the chilled water system and CIP structures. Subsequently, the simulation results were used to assess scenarios for expanding the chilled water and CIP infrastructure, leading to a cost-effective and robust design.

Interactive dashboards are distributed automatically to desktops and mobile devices with INOSIM BICON to ensure that relevant information always reaches the right people.

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