Companion Baking’s new palletizing robot – affectionately referred to as Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk) by staff – takes this innovative St. Louis bakery to a higher level of production efficiency and equipment sophistication.
Companion’s latest projects have allowed them to carve out a unique niche as a mid-sized bread distributor with extensive customization capabilities. Thanks to semi-automation and tools such as Redzone, the bakery company is able to produce around 150 different references, five days a week, in an organized and efficient way, all on a floor area of 42,000 square feet.
As part of her role overseeing and training new team members, Operations Manager Suman Shekar has made it her mission to bring new technologies and production processes to the floor of the bakery. She discovered that semi-automation allows Companion team members to have personal interaction with the entire production process, while making their lives easier and safer.
“In order to help grow the business, we had to be attuned to the technology available,” says Shekar. “With all the technology around us now, we are able to create opportunities every time we move forward.”
Here are some of the key game-changing technologies at Companion:
As one of the largest, fastest growing manufacturing technology companies when it comes to teamwork and frontline productivity, Redzone has fully opened the eyes of the Companion team to the need for an update of production processes. Suman is able to track the effectiveness of Companion against the standard. Every time dough is made, cut, or baked, Redzone tracks the timing and suggests ways for the team to improve. In addition, it served as a communication tool for the integration and professional development of employees.
Since that realization, Companion has reduced its annual waste by more than 1 million pounds in just 2.5 years and made progress towards zero waste to landfill by 2025.
Plus, shipping to over 400 restaurants, grocery stores and partners is no small feat. The green Companion robot helps with palletizing and heavy lifting, working around the clock so the workforce can be dispersed to other areas of the bakery floor.
“Certainly, as we move more into frozen food manufacturing, this system gives us enormous transparency, which is critical in communicating with our customers,” says Josh Allen, Founder of Companion. “This system does not remain static either. All in all, we’re about 70% to 80% of where we want to be. This system is a huge tool for us. I am blown away by the transparency we can present to customers – through tracking and our ability to focus on the supply chain.