Innovation Station: World Class Improvements to Our Facility

September 26, 2019 at 03:43pm

“We were bursting at the seams,” said Hope Simpson, our QA Manager. She’s recounting when a couple of years ago, we were pushing our Burlington, Vermont headquarters to its limit. We needed more space.

cookie dough inclusions being made at the factoryAs America’s leading cookie dough and bakery-style ice cream inclusion supplier, we are deeply committed to food safety, innovation, and quality. So when it became clear our “space issues” could affect our people and the potential to meet customers’ needs, we jumped in and did something about it.

Rhino Foods undertook a substantial building expansion and renovation, which was completed in the summer of 2018. We’re now finishing up our first year working in our new spaces and are excited to provide some insight into what we’ve achieved. Why are we talking about this? Because it’s our culture to be transparent and we find pride in knowing this work has positively impacted our capacity, production processes, and food safety.

“Our new facility meets best-in-class High-Care standards for ready-to-eat cookie dough,” said Don Holly, Director of Technical Services. “We’ve also improved our personnel facilities and increased our processing area to allow for future growth and new product lines.”

With our expansion and renovation, we doubled our production and warehouse spaces and expanded and relocated staff locker rooms. These spatial improvements allowed us to gain efficiencies and increase food safety by reworking the flow of ingredients, equipment, people, and finished product through the facility.

Beyond changes to our facility footprint, many other steps were taken to support our high quality and food safety standards.

production of cookie dough inclusionsIn the production rooms, dust collection and state-of-the-art air-flow systems result in cleaner air and better temperature and humidity control. Higher ceilings in the new production room accommodate larger equipment, allowing for better line layouts, improved ergonomics, and increased output. The use of motion-sensor LED lights improves the amount and quality of light while decreasing energy usage.

The separation of locker rooms, gowning rooms, and boot rooms with a proscribed traffic pattern through these, further decreases the potential for foreign objects or environmental contaminants from reaching the production floors. The boot rooms’ design, in particular, keeps plant shoes, that are only worn inside our building, separate from production boots that never leave the high-care production area.

Video cameras in our production rooms monitor critical production steps from the batter-making stations through to the boxing of finished product. Installation of cameras was a challenge for us, as we didn’t feel it fit our culture. We met with staff to discuss the reasoning and the benefit to our customers and to Rhino. This step helped gain buy-in from employees. While the primary reason for the cameras is to be able to research production issues, they have already helped us engineer out inefficiencies and improve ergonomics.

While existing prior to our renovation, the addition of more boot wash stations at warehouse doors and other key transition zones decreases the possible tracking of contaminants into other areas of the building.  Each obstacle we can put in the way of contaminants reaching product strengthens food safety.

Our work doesn’t stop here. Rhino will continue to focus on upgrading processes and equipment, to implement new learning, and meet evolving standards to remain best-in-class and expand our business. Our new facility affords us the space to do so.

And we cannot wait to see what our future holds.