|King's Hawaiian's new plant produces sweet rolls and breads.|
|King's Hawaiian's employees conduct quality assurance checks on the company's 4-pack roll line.|
|King's Hawaiian's products are depanned before entering a spiral cooler.|
|To make its rolls, King's Hawaiian has three makeup lines that feed one proofer and oven.|
|King's Hawaiian's packaging department resembles Los Angeles' Interstate 405. This maze of conveyors feeds nine packaging lines.|
|After the packaging department, King's Hawaiian's bread and roll products are packaged in cases and sent to the company's automated warehouse, which contains multiple robotic systems.|
|From left to right: |
Curtis Taira, vice president;
Herb Beckius, plant engineer;
Shelby Weeda, president; Dean Sheardown(in back), operations manager;
Tomiko Hill, chief financial officer;
Jon Hoyer, director of technical services.
In the baking industry evolution generally occurs at a slow pace. Retail bakeries purchase an automated makeup line and eventually start selling product out of the back door. Next comes more automated equipment and a growing wholesale business. Finally, the company purchases a 50,000-sq.-ft building and takes a stab at the regional market. If the bakery proves successful, additional expansion will follow. For most bakeries in the United States this process takes anywhere from 10 to 50 years.
Until recently the history of King's Hawaiian Bakery, Torrance, Calif., mirrored this traditional bakery evolution path. The company grew from a small Hawaiian outpost into a modest wholesale business in California that slowly carved out a niche as a supplier of sweet breads and rolls. After posting double-digit sales increases for the last ten years, the company decided to take the next step in the evolution process. However, instead of adding a new line or expanding its existing facility to ease capacity, the company built a mega-bakery that dwarfs its old operations in size, technology and automation.
"This is a monumental leap," explains Shelby Weeda, King's Hawaiian Bakery West Inc.'s president. "At our old facility we were limited. Now, the opportunities are unlimited."
These opportunities expand beyond additional capacity and more efficient operations. The new plant allows the company to bring innovation to the forefront of its operations. "If you look at our history, we've introduced two new items in the last seven years," Weeda says. "In the fourth quarter of 2004 we're launching five new items and in the first part of 2005 we will launch at least three new items." This influx of innovation is attributed to the company's new 150,000 sq. ft. bakery in Torrance. The new plant marks a new era for King's Hawaiian. The company is positioned to significantly ramp up production of its traditional products while launching new products. At its old facility these two separate functions were impossible.
"Our biggest problem was that we didn't have the capacity at the old facility. We simply couldn't make enough products," Weeda says. "And our whole objective is to grow our business through new products."
By increasing capacity and allowing for new product innovations, King's Hawaiian's new plant is set to take the company to the next level. Baking Management recognizes the ambition of these plans and the technological advancements of the new facility with its 2004 Capital Investment of the Year award.
Out with the old...
Providing for future generations has always been a major principle at King's Hawaiian. Robert Taira, the recently deceased founder of the bakery, built the company's original plant in 1976 and envisioned his children building a new plant as the business grew. This dream materialized in November 2002 when the company broke ground on the new facility with Mark and Curtis Taira contributing to the design and layout of the plant.
Working from a blank slate the company set big goals. The new facility was designed to be five times as big as the existing facility and stocked with new automated baking systems. This represented a far cry from the company's old plant, which used significant manual labor.
"Our biggest goal was to have a facility that we could grow with, and for us to reach the next level, we needed the infrastructure," Weeda says. "We had a plant full of 30-year old equipment and you can't grow and offer customers new and innovative products with that type of system. We needed to have a new state-of-the-art baking facility."
...in with the new
Because the future of the company depended on the successful startup of the new plant, King's Hawaiian sought the most advanced baking systems on the market. Besides increasing capacity and improving efficiencies, these new bakery systems also modernized the plant with photo eyes, servo-controlled motors and programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
This level of technology was absent from its old facility, which contained mechanical motors and manual pan handling. "We couldn't install the old mechanical systems because we wanted efficiency and consistency," Weeda says.
However, new servo-driven systems integrated through computers posed challenges to the company's employees who were used to operating equipment built in the 1970s.
"Training people to understand the advancement of equipment has been the biggest challenge," Weeda says. "It's like going from analog to digital. All of our systems our now computer integrated."
For Dean Sheardown, King's Hawaiian's operations manager, the switch from mechanical motors to servo motors created a new learning curve that the company's production line employees are still feeling out. For example, Sheardown says that during the initial startup of the plant, something as simple as a malfunctioning proxy switch or blown fuse could shut down a line for hours. "If you're not familiar with the system, it's a long process of elimination to troubleshoot a problem," Sheardown says.
As the company's production employees familiarize themselves with the computer-driven system, the benefits of the modernization are materializing. The plant's production lines contain hundreds of photo eyes that continually update and stream information to the various Panel View PLCs positioned throughout the plant. Now, when a problem occurs the company can connect a laptop computer to the system and troubleshoot in a more efficient manner.
The modernization of the plant through servo motors and computer integrated systems also improves the consistency and quality of the products. Through the Panel View PLCs, the company can automatically adjust multiple variables of the baking process that were manually manipulated at the old plant.
Production at King's Hawaiian's new plant begins in a mixing and fermentation room that uses proprietary equipment and technology that is unique to the baking industry, says Sheardown. As a result, the company did not divulge any of the specifics of the mixing department.
After mixing, dough is conveyed to the makeup room, which contains three roll makeup lines, one round loaf bread line and a soon-to-be operating sliced bread line. On the roll lines, the dough conveyor infeed system operates using a network of photo eyes that monitor each of the hopper's volume. When hopper volume is running low, the conveyor system delivers dough to that hopper.
King's Hawaiian's makeup lines are standard for bread and roll makeup production systems. However, the lines do afford the company a level of computer control and quality assurance that was not present at its old facility
The company pans its 4- and 12-pack rolls in paperboard trays that feature a bottom and four sides. At its old facility, the company manually handled these trays when transferring the product from the makeup line to the proofer and oven. At its new facility, it needed to bake these products using pans that conformed to the rest of the baking system. To accomplish this task, it uses customized baking pans that house six trays. To index the trays into the pan, the company installed a pick-and-place robotic system
"At the new plant, we have a pan with the same dimensions of a traditional pan, and we're now able to automatically index the trays as opposed to manually indexing them one at a time," Sheardown says.
One major difference between King's Hawaiian's old plant and its new facility is the use of pans. At the old facility, the company did not bake in pans, opting instead for parchment materials and manual handling. Conversely, the new facility's pan handling setup incorporates two robotic systems and a complex network of conveyors.
The company's two pan handling robots reside on a mezzanine above the proofing and baking room. An infeed conveyor feeds the panning room with pans that have been cleaned and are ready to use. The robotic system takes these pans and either places them in storage or feeds them to the makeup line, depending on the production run. When a makeup line operator punches in the production run, the system identifies the size and type of pans needed and automatically places them on an outfeed conveyor that feeds the makeup room.
King's Hawaiian's traditional round bread loaves are manufactured on a standard bread line. The line is computer-controlled, which provides a major benefit compared to the bread line at the old plant. "We can adjust the rounders and conveyors through the Panel View," Sheardown says. "At the old plant, you had to mechanically manipulate the equipment to get the desired settings."
After makeup and intermediate proofing, bread products enter a final proofer. After proofing, the products traverse through a 110-ft. tunnel oven. The roll lines feed a similar proofing and baking system.
After baking, breads and rolls are cooled then transported to the packaging department on a series of conveyors that resembles Los Angeles' Interstate 405. This complex system of movable conveyors feeds the company's products to one of nine packaging lines.
Warehouse and distribution
One of the most impressive and technologically advanced areas of King's Hawaiian's new bakery is its warehouse and distribution center. This system includes a comprehensive software package and three robotic systems that distribute boxes of the company's frozen products to its customers.
After packaging, these boxes of products receive a barcode and are sent to the warehouse. The barcode allows the company to conduct ingredient lot tracking on every one of its products. As the boxes of product enter the warehouse, a robotic system palletizes them and feeds them to a storage freezer. The company's storage freezer contains a giant gantry robotic crane that stores products and fills orders for distribution.
When a shipment is needed, the robotic crane pulls the boxes and feeds them to another robotic system that palletizes the boxes on a board that contains a radio frequency identification tag (RFID). "Based on the barcode and RFID tag, we know what products are available, what products went into storage first, what day of the week they went into storage and what lot of ingredients was used in the bread," Sheardown says.
By expanding its operations and installing highly-advanced baking systems, King's Hawaiian has charted its own future. Besides launching new products aimed at growing sales, the company also plans to enter the foodservice arena with its line of sweet bread and roll products.
Also on the company's plate is finetuning its new plant and ramping up to full capacity. Currently, the plant is running at 50% capacity. With a slate of new products on the way, filling the plant's capacity does not appear to be a problem. However, the company's philosophy and focus remain on its long-term prosperity.
"When you invest the type of money that we did in this facility, you have to understand that we're doing it for the future as well as for today," Weeda says.
With a new plant up and running and innovative new products on deck, the future of King's Hawaiian appears to be in good hands.