Our final factory visit was to one of the largest retail food production facilities in North America, the Campbell plant at Napoleon, which employs 1,150 full time staff across two plants - with that number increasing to 1,550 at busy times, notably July to October when it produces the V7 concentrate used to make V8 products for the year (all the veggies minus the tomatoes).
One plant - which opened in 1957 - produces soups and sauces in cans, pouches, microwaveable bowls and larger foodservice packs; and the other - which started life in the 1930s and was acquired by Campbell in 1948 - produces V8 beverages in aluminum cans and PET bottles.
There are separate on-site facilities run by third parties (Amcor and Silgan) that blow-mold the bottles and produce the soup cans, employing a further 380+ people.
Biodigestor due to come online late December
The monstrous 949-acre site also houses a 1m sq ft warehouse, a waste water treatment plant that can handle 10m gallons/day, a water treatment plant that can handle 15m gallons/day, a 60-acre suite of solar panels and a biodigestor - due to become operational at the end of this year.
This will take in waste veg peelings, waste treatment sludge, V7 pomace, off-product and reed canary grass, digest it and produce methane to power two generators capable of producing up to 28 MegaWatts - or 16-18% of the facility's electricity requirements, says Mark Cacciatore, VP of manufacturing. "Couple this with solar and renewable energy will provide about a third of our electricity.
"We're also looking at wind power to see if this is a viable site for a turbine."
Operational efficiency: We've reduced water consumption by a third in the past five years
While the canned soup market is in decline, Campbell has increased the volumes produced through the Napoleon plant recently as it has taken on production from other sites in its manufacturing empire as it has consolidated its network, says Cacciatore, a former P&G executive.
"[For Prego sauce production alone] we've reduced water consumption at the plant by a third in the past five years, speeded up changeovers, improved OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) from 69.1% in 2005 to 86.7% in 2013, and improved global reliability - which is the highest in the Campbell Soup network." (Overall, the Napoleon plant has improved efficiency by more than 10 points over the past 6 years.)
"We've also introduced a change to our 3x8-hour shift pattern so that the shifts all overlap by half an hour, so as one starts and another ends there is a time window for 20 minute meetings to talk about metrics, and see where the opportunities might be [to make improvements, solve problems]."
A mode demand driven approach
Probably the biggest change at the soups and sauces plant in recent years has been a shift from huge continuous runs to a more demand-driven and flexible approach requiring more changeovers, greater complexity, more stock-keeping-units, smaller packs (12-packs and 24-packs of soup as well as the 48-can standard), and more mixed cases and pallets, giving customers exactly what they want, when they want it, he says.
While this sounds inherently less efficient, the plant has improved the speed with which it can manage changeovers so significantly that it can manage complexity without suffering, he says.
The site has also switched from making huge batches of base mixture for multiple lines to a one-for-one approach - one batch of base recipe for one kettle of soup, which delivers better yields and speeds up changeovers.
Other innovations include adding barium to the plastics used in products such that stray shards will show up on an x-ray before products are released into the market and a costly recall has to be initiated.