Case Study: Pet Food Success Through Speed and Reliability with The Honest Kitchen
A loyal following and a surge in production demand is The Honest Kitchen story. Their high standards in quality for pet food have set them up for rapid growth and long-term success.
We partnered with THK to deliver an end-to-end solution that met their growing production needs and helped alleviate the workload of optimizing a new facility.
Since 2002, The Honest Kitchen evolved into a team of
incredibly passionate animal-loving foodies that never stops
striving for better, more creative, and tastier solutions. THK
operates under a strict set of standards that Lucy Postins, THK
Founder and Chief Integrity Officer, created on day one. THK
works hard to keep raising the bar on quality and integrity with
their human-grade pet food products that continue to cause a
stir across the pet food industry.
High Demand in Product Required One-Stop Solution
Almost immediately after opening the factory in Los Angeles, THK
realized quickly that the company had outgrown its facility and
needed to expand to meet its customers’ demands, creating a project
scope with stringent deadlines, high expectations, and the need for a
vendor who could supply an end-to-end solution.
“The product that we make here in Topeka is called Whole Food Clusters.
We can’t make enough of it. It is flying off the shelves,” said Stuart
Harness, Director of Product at THK. “The timelines to open this plant were extremely
aggressive. I also had twenty- to thirty-year-old equipment before, and
that was a very manual changeover process.”
Finding the Ideal Packaging Machine Vendor
According to the American Pet Products Association, U.S. consumers spent
$123.6 billion on their pets in 2021 — up nearly 15 percent over pre-pandemic
pet spending in 2019. This noticeable surge in demand is explained by pet
owners having become increasingly aware of their pets’ health: Chronic health
conditions like itchy skin, digestive upset, and ear problems have been tangibly
linked to poor pet food quality.
In early 2020, THK started a brownfield
project with BSM Partners to open a dry
pet food manufacturing facility in
Topeka, KS. BSM Partners – an
engineering firm that traditionally works
with pet food companies to invent
ingredients and specifications for pet
food products – was seeking a
packaging equipment partner with
knowledge and a lot of experience in the
pet food industry. Having worked with
every major pet food manufacturer
globally, BW Flexible Systems was a
natural fit for the job.
“Any time you start up a factory, there’s
always challenges. The one thing I’ve
never worried about is that packaging
machinery line,” said Harness. “From day one BW Flexible
Systems’ employees were very
responsive to our concerns.
They listened to exactly what
we were trying to accomplish,
what we needed in a large
Packaging lines, especially in the pet
food industry, are not a one size fits all
and THK required a highly efficient
solution that kept its operators safe. “All
the recommendations were spot on,”
Modular Solutions and Peace of Mind
BW Flexible Systems’ innovation was broad-based, with options for automatic
changeover and a highly interactive HMI operator control system to establish
ideal settings. The modularity of the equipment, ranging from the scales to the
baggers, the conveyers, palletizing, and even stretch wrapping, helped optimize
the application for THK.
“BWFS even got simple things like the
interior lighting correct,” said Harness.
“The bucket scales that came with the
line, they hit the set point target
almost perfectly every time.”
Best weight accuracy and best production rates were two of the top needs that THK requested, which BW Flexible Systems was able to offer by integrating quad scales instead of duplex scales above the UltraStar bagger.
The UltraStar bagger solution also included:
-A servo bag picker in place of the standard air cylinder driven bag picker for smoother operation and easier adjustment
-A servo driven actuator to raise and lower the spouts in place of the standard air cylinder. (smoother operation and easier adjustment)
-Air deflation in the bag fill area which removes excess air from the bags, thus preventing the hermetically sealed bags from becoming balloon-like and difficult to palletize
-Ports in the hopper between scales and bagger to allow the future addition of coupons into the bags
-An integral sealer to seal their plastic bags. The seal bars have a Teflon cloth over them which reduces maintenance and the need to clean the bars
-LED interior lighting that is white (normal operation), yellow (minor issue), or red (show-stopper issue). This helps operators identify and correct any faults more efficiently
-Centralized lubrication that allows the bearings in the bagger to be greased from the outside of the machine without stopping production
Additionally, BW Flexible Systems supplied an X-Ray machine to check filled bags for a wider range of contaminants than a metal detector, which would only detect metal contaminants.
Thinking of Future Generations
THK had a vision for the direction
in which they wanted to develop: what their needs were from a
technical standpoint but also from a
future-oriented growth perspective.
“Barry-Wehmiller has been around for
a very long time, and we know for at least twenty or thirty years, we’re going to
be able to rely on BW Flexible Systems. Having an end-to-end
solution from one vendor is a huge
advantage. From an engineering
perspective, from an integration
perspective - everything just flows.”
Currently, the bag palletizing is manual and the system is designed to easily enable the integration of an automatic palletizer with minimum redundancy of existing equipment.
Looking for support in updating and optimizing your old or new facility? Our engineering expertise and customization capabilities position BW Flexible Systems as an ideal partner to deliver solutions suited for pet food and other manufacturers who value reliability, high operational efficiency, as well as sustainable and sanitary solutions. Explore our synergy of brands with a huge portfolio offering or reach out to us directly to discuss your needs and how we can help!