Zepnick Solutions provides full suite of engineering, equipment

By Alyssa Mitchell

Photo courtesy of Zepnick Solutions
AUTOMATED SOLUTIONS — Pictured above is one of Zepnick Solutions’ robotic palletizers. The company creates process, packaging and palletizing solutions by providing clients with the right combination of engineering services personalized for their project needs.
 Photo courtesy of Zepnick Solutions
EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES — Pictured above is a Zepnick-designed control panel. The company provides technologies ranging from complete controls integration to robotics and more.

GREEN BAY, Wis. — With a new strategic partnership, an employee-focused culture and a full suite of engineering and equipment offerings, Zepnick Solutions Inc. continues to provide innovative, specialized service to North American cheese and dairy manufacturers.

Founded in 2000, Zepnick Solutions is a recognized leader in engineering solutions and equipment for automation in the food, paper and consumer goods industries. When starting the company, Jody Zepnick wanted to create a business that not only would serve a growing niche — manufacturing automation — but also would be a place where people want to work.

Over the past 20 years, the company has grown to more than 55 employees. Zepnick Solutions has expanded its headquarters in Green Bay, Wisconsin, opened an office in West Chester, Ohio, in 2020 and added process engineering resources in the Denver area in 2023. The company services clients across North America and in Europe to ensure its engineering and automation solutions exceed customers’ expectations.

Last month, Zepnick Solutions officially merged with Salas O’Brien, an engineering and technical services firm, creating a combined presence of more than 75 offices and 2,500 team members across North America. The Zepnick team will continue to be managed by its current leaders and currently will maintain Zepnick Solutions Inc. - A Salas O’Brien Company through the transition period.

Zepnick notes that as a company with an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), when looking for a partner, Zepnick chose a company that aligned with its culture and also was employee owned. As an employee-owned company, Zepnick Solutions lives by the values of family, technical excellence, collaboration, accountability and humility.

At the same time, the company also was looking at a long-term growth plan for the business that would support clients on a larger scale. It found the ideal partner in Salas O’Brien.

“We are excited to welcome Zepnick Solutions, a like-minded team committed to employee ownership and strong relationships,” Darin Anderson, chairman and CEO of Salas O’Brien, says of the merger. “Innovative engineering talent is critical for the future of manufacturing, and Zepnick Solutions will bolster our position as a driving force in this high-demand sector.”

Zepnick adds that the partnership with Salas O’Brien allows the company additional depth of resources and services going forward in areas it has been looking to expand over the last several years.

“We have the same Zepnick leadership team and employees serving the same customers. We’ll continue to focus on customer relationships, strong technical support and strategic business relationships to support our customers,” he says. “Our team holds a very high standard and considers every day a new opportunity to improve. It is exciting to see that same mentality in Salas O’Brien, and we are confident that this merger presents unlimited opportunity for the team, personally and professionally.

“The partnership with Salas O’Brien allows us to provide additional services and opportunities to our clients who have needs that are not adequately being filled,” he adds.

Zepnick Solutions creates process, packaging and palletizing solutions by providing clients with the right combination of engineering services and equipment personalized for their project needs.

For cheese and dairy manufacturers, Zepnick Solutions also has expertise in pasta filata and Cheddar-style cheesemaking; experience with bulk culture and direct vat set (DVS) culture make; project management office (PMO) process design and 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc. design specialization; clean-in-place (CIP) system design and integration; and whey handling and further processing drain integration.

Additional technologies range from 3D scanning, process controls, machine controls, HMIs, complete controls integration and robotics, to control panels and more.

Zepnick notes the company’s mainstay in the dairy industry for the last several years has been process engineering, packaging and palletizing for the cheese industry in general. That has expanded into food and ready-to-eat meals in the last couple of years as well.

He adds that with ongoing labor challenges in the industry, coupled with supply chain issues, many customers have been leaning into design-build or turnkey execution strategies to keep their limited resources focused on their critical business issues while still being able to execute business-advancing capital projects with excellence.

“Our turnkey solutions help our customers find a way to solve their challenges and turn their business goals and objectives into reality,” Zepnick says. “Before providing clients with the specialized solutions they deserve, we listen and dive in to understand the challenges they’re facing and develop a fully integrated solution.

“By doing a turnkey solution, we can provide that single team interface to provide the services they need from concept through to full training and execution. Then they can continue to focus on their most critical business needs,” he adds.

The company’s five-step process includes conceptualization, development of equipment specifications, design, programming and commission.

Zepnick notes in the conception stage, the company works with its customers to really analyze their needs and come up with a complete solution.

“As we’re working through projects, one of the issues we often see in the industry is suppliers rushing forward and only addressing symptoms versus analyzing and solving the core problems,” he says. “As clients explain the issues they are seeing, we listen and work with them to make sure we look at the big picture of what needs to be done — making sure we’re not solving a symptom but rather developing a solution for the real core problem.”

Following that, Zepnick Solutions will work on developing equipment specifications that are efficient and fully meet clients’ performance, operational, technical and maintenance needs.

“Cheese is a liquid, and it doesn’t stop changing until you put it into a container,” Zepnick says. “Variable products need to have more flexible equipment rather than equipment with a tight physical specification.”
Zepnick Solutions then brings that specification into the design and makes sure all operational and control narrative details are fully defined and aligned before the programming stage.

“We review the details of the operator interfaces, equipment operation and maintenance to make sure customers can clearly understand how the system is designed to work for them,” Zepnick says.

In the final commissioning phase, Zepnick Solutions makes sure its clients are trained and comfortable with their experience with the operation of the system.

“We don’t just start up the equipment and leave — we have the opportunity to train customers on how the system works. We want them to own it and be comfortable with it, so we really partner with them at that time to make sure we can transfer as much knowledge as possible to them during commissioning,” Zepnick says.
He adds that Zepnick Solutions’ expertise has long been on the equipment in the plant, but customers often have additional needs for expertise.

“Expanding the business into other areas can take a lot of intellectual and financial investment and a large learning curve, and that’s where Salas O’Brien helps us bridge the gap,” he says. “This adds stability to our process, both for us and our customers.”

As Zepnick Solutions evolves, Zepnick says the company’s focus will continue to be on its customers’ success and long-term customer relationships.

“The consistent theme for customer feedback over the years is that ‘we make it work.’ A lot of vendors are focused on the strict specification of what was ordered and then move on — but we are more focused on customer success. We stick around to make sure our customers are successful on the tail end of these projects as things are rolled out, and it’s part of why we are tapped as a turnkey solutions provider. Our customers want us to provide engineering and equipment and often purchase from their own suppliers because they know we’re going to be there to make sure they’re getting what they need for their business,” he says.

Zepnick notes Zepnick Solutions looks forward to learning more about customers’ specific needs and will be exhibiting at booth #849 during the 2024 CheeseExpo in Milwaukee next month.


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