The Ralcorp cereals plant at 150 S. McCamly St, Battle Creek, has also changed hands several times over the years, but was also here before Kellogg, starting life in 1901, according to continuous improvement manager Ed Smith (pictured).
Other key dates for the site include 1927 - when it became part of Ralston Purina; 1994 - when Ralston Purina spun off its cereal manufacturing and Ralcorp was created; and 2013 - when Ralcorp was acquired by ConAgra Foods.
Today, the SQF level 3 certified site - which comprises three manufacturing plants - churns out a mind-boggling 836 million pounds of private label cereal in boxes, pouches and bulk totes, supplying everyone from Walmart to Kroger, producing flakes, biscuits and coated cereal products.
Along with its rivals, Ralcorp has seen volumes drop off in recent years as cereal consumption has declined, while commodity prices have risen, says Smith, which has increased pressure to improve operational efficiency in order to protect margins.
“We’ve done a lot of work on continuous improvement and lean techniques and we’ve significantly cut the ramp up time to get a line to 85-90% efficiency after a changeover from one to three days to just an hour or two."
Statistical process controls
He adds: “We’ve also spent a lot of time on implementing statistical process controls so we’ve got far more uniformity and consistency in the products.”
As for capital investments, around $15m is penciled in over the next few years as the firm plans upgrades including replacing a dryer in one of the buildings and bringing production of all the components in snack mixes in-house, he says.