Companion Baking’s new palletizing robot – affectionately called Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk) by the staff – enables this innovative St. Louis bakery the ability to achieve 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 vast customization capabilities. Through semi-automation and tools such as Redzone, the baking company is able to produce around 150 different SKUs, five days a week, in an organized and efficient manner – all in a floor space of 42,000 square feet.
As a part of her role in overseeing and training new team members, operations manager Suman Shekar has made it a goal to bring new technologies and production processes to the bakery floor. She has found that semi-automation allows for members of the Companion team to have personal interaction with the greater production process, all while making their lives easier and safer.
“In order to help grow the company, we needed to open our ears to what technology was out there,” Shekar says. “With all the technology that is now around us, we are capable of creating opportunity every time we move forward.”
A few of the key technologies that are changing the game at Companion include:
As one of the biggest, fastest growing manufacturing technology companies in frontline teamwork and productivity, Redzone has fully opened the eyes of Companion team to the need for an updated production processes. Suman is able to track Companion’s efficiency against the standard. Each time dough is made, cut, or put in an oven, Redzone tracks timing and provides ways for the team to improve. In addition, it has served as a communication tool for employee onboarding and professional development.
Since this realization, Companion has reduced its annual waste by over 1 million pounds in just 2.5 years and is making strides to go to zero waste-to-landfill by 2025.
Further, shipping to 400-plus restaurants, grocery stores, and partners is no small feat. The green Companion robot assists with palletizing and heavy lifting, working around the clock so that labor can be dispersed to other areas of the bakery floor.
“Certainly, as we transitioned more into frozen product manufacturing, this system gives us a tremendous amount of transparency, which is critical to communicating with our customers,” says Companion’s founder Josh Allen. “This system also does not remain static. Overall, we are 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 hone in on the supply chain.”