KANSAS CITY — Success often has growing pains, but smart investing may pay dividends over time in unexpected ways. Since Partners, A Tasteful Choice Company, began automating production in 2000, the specialty cracker and food company outgrew its Seattle facility and moved to Kent, Wash., in 2006. When the company moved again in 2017, they found their field of dreams in Des Moines. No, not in Iowa — Des Moines in Washington state, near the Seattle airport.
Today, the built-to-specification plant pumps out about 11 million wholesome crackers and crisp flatbreads each day. Moreover, sensing an impending labor shortage before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit, the company installed labor-saving equipment. The 150,000-square-foot facility features two robotic systems that pick, place, stack and package crackers at a much faster rate than dozens of people had done semiautomatically.
The bakery now relies on eight people to operate its packaging department versus 40 at the previous plant.
“It was a two-fold improvement,” Cara Figgins, president, Partners, told Baking & Snack for its February issue. “It added more capacity and greater efficiency so we can make a larger amount of products per person per hour but we can also produce more overall volume.”
Another reason for building the bakery was a practical one everyone understands.
“We do not want to move for a very long time,” said Greg Maestretti, chief operating officer, Partners, who designed the plant. “The goal for me was to build a bakery big enough so that we would not have to move from here.”