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Expedited packaging center design and build

The challenge

A customer approached us with a proposition: they wanted to tie together a distribution center with a packaging and processing plant…and needed a partner to help make it happen. They turned to Hearthside.

The catch? Though this is all well within our wheelhouse, this type of request normally takes about a year from start to finish. This customer needed the job done in half the time in order to ensure a seamless transition from their former distribution network contract end date.

The process

As a greenfield project with an aggressive timeline, we jumped into action. This partner did the turnkey with us, effectively handing over the complete design and build of the facilities, as well as the installation of all equipment. No small task.

We took their requests, established a team, and ironed out working and construction documents to get the project underway. There were also the intricacies of government funding to consider; with conversations in concert with the customer, we were able to navigate these early and effectively. Then, we entered both the design and build simultaneously in order to establish a process that aligned with our timeline. We take deadlines seriously and in order to hit this one, we knew that we’d have to have several aspects of the project working in tandem.

On top of all of the construction planning and execution, this also meant hiring a completely new staff: from the plant, to plant managers, and all of the hourly workers.

This substantial amount of work along with the pressure of a condensed timeline called for an emphasis on clear, frequent communication. Throughout the entire process, we worked closely with the customer, keeping all channels of discourse open and active. Weekly meetings and progress reports helped ensure that everything was on track and aligned with their vision for the facilities.

We managed to do all of this without a single construction accident on the site or during the build.

The results

We made it through safely and on time, ensuring a seamless transition for our customer from their previous distribution network to this new site.

We had the distribution center completed in six months, the packaging aspect completed a month later, and the processing plants done a month after that.

We also managed to do all of this without a single construction accident on the site or during the build, which speaks to the incredible culture of safety and efficiency that we prioritize. With a tight schedule comes minimal room for error; keeping safety in check even while moving quickly allowed us to stay focused and on-schedule.

4 million hours without a lost-time incident | Hearthside Food Solutions

The challenge

A strong stance on safety is table stakes in manufacturing. Without it, nothing else works. Of course, that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Keeping our people safe each and every day is an ongoing challenge that requires constant vigilance.

Though there are many ways to quantify safety, making it to the one million hour mark without a lost-time incident is considered a huge accomplishment across the industry. This landmark is also one that many plants struggle to reach. With so many details to track, daily labor demands, and sheer number of employees, it’s easy to see how sizable this challenge can be.

Not to mention, many plants also fall into a reactive state when it comes to safety instead of taking full stock of preventative measures. When you feel like you’re constantly putting out little fires, it’s difficult to find the time and space for preventative planning.

The process

From the beginning, we set out to make the safety of our people our number one priority. We know that a successful company is proactive (rather than reactive), and have taken steps to weave it into our culture and day-to-day activities.

To us, safety means that every employee gets to start, work, and finish safe each day. We enact this by creating safety committees at each plant made up of hourly employees who are engaged and empowered in their daily work with safety as a focus. These safety teams are the eyes and ears of the floor, and help to:

  • Identify risks and hazards
  • Create a safe and healthy environment on a daily basis
  • Engage all employees, inviting them in to be part of the process, identify risks, near misses, and collaborate on solutions

These committees have proved invaluable when it comes to the cultivation of a strong overall culture of safety. Because the hourly employees on these teams are the ones communicating and pushing safety initiatives, they have been able to positively influence overall buy-in from the ground up.

With their help, we’ve been able to take an engaging, lighthearted approach to this serious requirement. From a safety phrase of the week, to prizes for safety accomplishments on the floor, to instituting a “safety t-shirt Tuesday” tradition, we do our best to keep things fun, while still focusing on serious work.

The results

We’re proud of the work toward safety that all of our plants take, but one plant in particular stands out as the first Hearthside facility to not only surpass the one million hour mark…but to carry it through to four million hours without a lost-time safety incident. This is an incredible point of pride for not only this particular plant, but for the company as a whole. And, they haven’t stopped there–this plant is currently pushing to get to five million hours. We give credit where it’s due, and threw this plant a party to acknowledge and thank them for all of their hard work.

Additionally, their positive influence on other plants has been incredible to watch. They set the bar higher, which has ignited other teams to strive for big milestones.

When we prioritize safety as a company, we’re putting our people first. Being a safe and reliable workplace has a rich trickle-down effect. It not only keeps our employees protected, but also allows them to continue to support their families. A culture of safety also improves the quality of the products we make, and gives our customers peace of mind in the processes that we take to manage their products.

A safe, swift facility build amid a global pandemic | Hearthside Food Solutions

The challenge

We needed to build a new facility with automation capabilities in order to meet rapid growth needs. Between syncing up construction timelines, permits, and ensuring safety, building out a near fully automated bakery is a challenge alone, but this customer also needed to be fully functional within a year—a significant addition to the request.

We started work in 2020, which meant adding a global pandemic to our already condensed timeline.

The process

High collaboration is something we bring to every partnership, and this project was no exception. Especially with a tight timeline and added pressure from the rapid evolution of the pandemic, open and frequent communication was paramount.

To kick off, we spent a couple months with the technicians, building out requirements documents, identifying the main goals, products, and types of packaging needed. (In particular, the packaging area required a large lift in terms of automation.)

After establishing our baselines, we began to convert an empty brownfield facility into our facility. This meant gutting everything and building back up, all with new COVID-19 protocols in place for our teams. We worked with a dedicated staff, and up to 400 contractors at a time in order to keep this project on track.

“High collaboration is something we bring to every partnership, and this project was no exception.”

The results

In a year full of challenges that nobody expected, we delivered this facility with new capabilities and capacity on time and on target. The automation of the packaging area alone has enabled us to reduce labor and run lines at a higher rate, with less square footage requirements—an important target.

We also take immense pride in our approach to heightened safety during this period. Even with a large staff and bevy of contractors, we didn’t experience a single COVID-19 hit. This was a huge group effort and it speaks volumes of the team that we’re so fortunate to work with each day.

Staying on the cutting edge of automation | Hearthside Food Solutions

The challenge

Consistent quality. Superior speed-to-market.

To stay competitive in the world of modern manufacturing, we have to continually innovate in order to keep our edge and drive real value for our customers. As our customers require more and more scale, we want to ensure that we have the capacity to handle their requests with the quality and speed that their brands necessitate. Not to mention, in addition to pure scale capacity, finding the right labor to keep our plants running smoothly has also proved to be a challenge (especially when global pandemics hit).

We’re constantly evolving our processes to hone faster production times, ensure product quality, and keep our capacity open for bigger projects. Right now, that means asking ourselves: what areas of our process are ripe for innovation through automation?

“Successful automation is strategically placed and carefully thought out.”

The details

In many ways, automation is the next frontier of manufacturing. However, we also know that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and successful automation is strategically placed and carefully thought out.

As such, we’ve targeted key automation solutions, such as those that handle heavy, ergonomically-challenging movements and those that reduce time-consuming food assembly.

The results

Resounding success.

Because of these capabilities, we’ve been able to reallocate our people out of more high-risk positions into new roles. The ergonomics involved with the management of heavy items can be really tough on the human body. Robotic capabilities give us the opportunity to find less physically demanding roles for these employees, often on a stronger advancement path, while also improving our overall safety.

We have also been able to expand our capacity, offering our customers the boost in scale and speed that they need to lead in their respective categories. Plus, the machine always comes to work. It gives us stability that human error can’t quite achieve, and thus better consistency in the product.

Our eagerness to invest in this new technology sets us apart from other manufacturers often stuck in the past, and demonstrates our commitment to continuous improvement and innovation.

Innovative bar creation with R&D and consumer insights | Hearthside Food Solutions

The challenge

Today’s consumer wants more from a bar.

They often want a product that is packed with dense nutrient value, but tastes like a sweet treat—one of the largest challenges our industry faces. On top of that, of course, quality and consistency are paramount to obtaining and maintaining trust and brand loyalty.

When this particular customer wanted to create a new, great-tasting functional bar in the sports nutrition category, they looked to us for guidance and expertise on how to go about bringing their ideation to life in a way that would be more attractive to their target audience.

The process

This customer had a vision of creating a new, delicious sport bar while staying within desirable nutritional levels, particularly with specific protein targets in mind. To do this, they brought us in at the ground level to begin with precise and innovative R&D.

Incorporating protein into recipes can be tricky; too much, and the product yields an unpleasant gritty texture. Too little, and the nutritional value disappears. Our team dug into this project, developed various formulas, and created multiple prototypes that satisfied the customer’s precise nutritional targets without sacrificing a delightful taste experience.

However, we didn’t stop there. We took their nutritional vision a step further, and considered how else we could best serve their target consumer with different bar formats.

The results

Ultimately, we were able to do both. After rigorous development and testing, the final product was a complex multilayered bar, with soft and crispy textures, an indulgent chocolate-caramel flavor profile, and an uncanny resemblance to a candy bar.

The combination of nutritional value, taste, and texture in this bar made this product a winner. That wouldn’t be possible without the seasoned expertise of our R&D teams, who not only innovate on ingredient and taste formulations, but also stay tuned in to any and all rising consumer trends. Being able to marry the two in a product is when we know we’ve played a role in the creation of something truly special.