These days, it's easy to get caught up in the romance of small manufacturing -- entrepreneurs using 3D printers in their garages to create unique products. Some believe that is where the future of U.S. manufacturing lies.
But in a country of 317 million people, even the most ardent advocate of additive manufacturing has to admit the U.S. has an ongoing need for big manufacturing. In December, I visited one of its chief practitioners, Campbell Soup's Napoleon facility in northwest Ohio. The facility had a record production year in 2013, producing 107 million cases with a list value of $2 billion.
Campbell Soup's operation on the banks of the Maumee River is massive -- 56 acres under roof on 949 acres of land. Run around the perimeter of the plants and you've completed a 5K. The operation includes two production facilities -- a soup and sauce plant and a beverage plant -- along with a million-square-foot distribution center and a plant utilities operation. In addition, Amcor makes plastic bottles on site and Silgan produces cans for the plant. Add their employees and other contractors to Campbell's 1,150 employees and as many as 2,000 workers may enter the plant daily.
The soup and sauce plant began operating in 1958 and has undergone five major expansions since then. The plant operates 17 filling systems, 15 for soup and one each for Prego tomato sauce and Pace salsa.
Campbell's Napoleon facility is growing in part because of a concerted drive to make it more efficient. Mark Cacciatore, vice president of operations at the facility, is leading the process to transform Napoleon into a high-performance organization that is more nimble and demand-driven. That's important because while Napoleon is a high-volume facility, it is also dealing with a growing portfolio of products.
"These plants were built for long, continuous runs," he noted. "We are absolutely transforming to a produce-on-demand philosophy. We make a lot more SKUs than we did in the past, not only in terms of what goes in the product but also in the packaging formats."
Significant capital investment is going into the plant to increase output and improve production flexibility. The plant also is investing in safety, installing state-of-the-art X-ray systems to detect not just metals in its products but also any stray plastic pieces.
Cacciatore said the plant's goals include a 10% improvement in reliability and schedule compliance, 100% employee involvement and generating ongoing structural savings of $10 million annually.
At the heart of a high-performance organization, Cacciatore asserts, is a team-based workforce that is rewarded for its skills. He credits the work ethic and skills of the Napoleon workforce for helping to further the production changes as well as the support of the UFCW. For example, for the past 50 years, employees showed up for work, relieved the prior shift and those employees left. Now, Campbell Soup uses the overlap at the shift change to schedule a 20-minute team meeting. Those meetings are used to review production and other metrics and prepare the team for the shift ahead.
"It is really about getting employees much more engaged to leverage their knowledge and drive better results," Cacciatore explained.
Campbell's drive for efficiency includes significant investments in sustainability. The plant has replaced its coal and oil boilers with natural gas, slashing carbon emissions, and reduced its water consumption by a third. It will soon generate about a third of its electricity from 60 acres of solar panels and a new biogas digester. The facility is also collecting data to determine the feasibility of installing wind turbines.
|Learn more about food production in northwest Ohio in our article on Bob Evans at iw.com/bob_evans.|
Campbell's Napoleon facility is working diligently to improve not only its technology and processes, but also its culture. For any manufacturer, that's big.