Festida Foods making good on their promise
Enter the lobby of Festida Foods' new 155,000 sq. ft. tortilla chip manufacturing plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan and you'll be greeted by a plaque bearing this mission statement:
To honor God in all we do, to help people develop,
to pursue excellence, and to grow profitably.
"Our promise is alive at Festida Foods. It's how we approach every day and every relationship", says president Kyle Curtiss. "Festida considers both customer and vendor relationships as partnerships. Bringing value to those partnerships is a central focus of our business, and Festida can do that in many ways, including: Product and recipe development; experienced staff with snack food backgrounds; a comprehensive lab facility; a certified baker and five full-time lab technicians on staff; competitive pricing; and winning attitudes.
Founded in 1989, Festida Foods has grown steadily by adhering to this promise, smiles Curtiss. The company produces private label corn chips, and tons of tortilla chips in a variety of shapes and sizes made from white, yellow, and blue corn, and specialty flours.
Customers include national and regional brands, food service distributors, school systems, specialty retail and big box stores. Festida chips are also purchased as components for meal kits and as ingredients used by other food processors.
But success produced a challenging flip-side. Soaring sales were squeezing Festida out of its original plant in Cedar Springs, MI. "We needed space desperately," recalled Curtiss. "For over a year, we were working six days a week and 24 hours a day. In this economy, that's a blessing, but with it we needed to make some changes".
Expansion to a larger building in Grand Rapids enabled Festida to double its capacity, while providing additional room for future growth and better working conditions for employees.
Curtiss pushes Festida to strive for excellence in all areas of its business: from team members and processes, to technology. So with the addition of a second processing line, Curtiss turned to Heat and Control to provide a new distribution, seasoning, and packaging system that could handle the line's output of 3,000 pounds per hour.
"Because of our wide range of products", explains Curtiss, "the system needed to be able to move, season, and pack a large number of chip sizes and weights".
After working with Festida, Heat and Control designed, built, and installed a system featuring the latest technology for consistent product delivery, versatile and uniform seasoning application, and non-stop weighing and packaging efficiency.
From multiple processing lines in the cook room, Festida's chips are briefly accumulated in two SwitchBack in-line storage conveyors. Product is now always available to packaging in the event of a temporary halt in production, and the chips never need to be bulked-off or wasted during brief packaging delays, such as changing bagmaker film.
This river of chips is proportionally distributed to five seasoning-weighing-bagmaking stations by a dual-lane FastBack Revolution gate conveyor system. Built into the pan of each FastBack horizontal motion conveyor, the patented Revolution gate rotates to divert the exact amount of product requested by each bagmaker, while maintaining a steady supply of chips to downstream stations. Unlike traditional slide gates, Revolution has no pinch-points that can break chips or injure workers. Revolution is very precise, seals completely preventing product cross contamination, and does not require the complex mechanisms of waggle conveyors that can create uneven product flow, product spillage and mixing, and maintenance headaches.
"With the addition of our second production line and multiple distribution channels, production flexibility has been significantly improved with the Revolution gate technology", says Curtiss, adding that it has allowed Festida to improve order fulfillment.
For simplicity and efficiency, Festida chose Heat and Control's Revolution on-machine seasoning application system. Product flow is continuously measured in the conveyor pans. This information is used to instantly regulate the amount of seasoning deposited, providing accurate and even application without waste.
"The state-of-the-art FastBack Revolution system treats chips gently, resulting in less breakage for our customers", observes Curtiss. "This system allows for a more uniform flow of product and a more efficient distribution of chips to the packaging machines".
An integral part of the seasoning system and for additional seasoning versatility, two Spray Dynamics/Heat and Control oil spray applicators were also added to the cook room to reintroduce oil to chips for uniform seasoning adherence in certain applications.
"In addition to internal product flavorings, Festida applies many different external seasonings, including salt, sea salt, cheese-based, savory flavors, and more", says Curtiss. "FastBack on-machine seasoning provides enhanced coverage of salt, seasonings, and flavors. It greatly reduces both cross-contamination and clean-up time. Seasoning application rates are consistently accurate and we can now produce up to four different products simultaneously", he beams.
From the Revolution seasoners, chips flow through new Ishida R-series multihead weighers and into Ishida Atlas vertical form-fill-seal bag makers.
Festida produces one ounce to three pound bag weights at speeds ranging from 90 to 12 per minute for the largest bags. Built-in vacuum splice tables simplify film changes with the Ishida bag makers. Forming tubes can be interchanged between the new baggers and those relocated from the old plant. And the Ishida bagmakers produce consistently perfect seals for all bag sizes at all speeds. Additionally, overall packaging efficiency is up thanks to longer equipment run-times resulting from uninterrupted flow of chips through the system. "Ishida weighers and bagmakers are cutting-edge technology", observes Curtiss, "and they provide accurate bag fill weights, and exceptional seal integrity".
"The entire system reduces cleanup times for seasoned products and provides the versatility needed to run multiple products simultaneously", says Curtiss. "It reduces chip breakage due to the manner in which the chips are conveyed and gives greater control over production due to the accumulation capability", he adds. "One of the largest improvements to date has been in the area of order scheduling", notes Curtiss. We can produce four different products simultaneously. Certain products have better overall throughput, and there has been some reduction in waste thanks to our accumulation ability", he concludes.
System operation is managed using Heat and Control's icon-based control system via one easy-to-navigate operator interface touch screen. Curtiss notes that the user-friendly operating controls provide significant system management and training benefits. "For operations, it is primarily the ability to control the system more easily and accurately", explains Curtiss. "In maintenance, the advantage is ease of access to various preventive maintenance areas. For sanitation, the system design allows for easy disassembly, which reduces cleanup time and provides the opportunity for more thorough and effective cleaning".
All these benefits have helped Festida Foods achieve the productivity and quality standards embodied in its Promise. In fact, the company has recently been recognized as a Gold Standard manufacturer of tortilla chips by a large national brand. Festida's chips are now considered the "go by" standard by which product from all other co-packers across the country will be compared by this brand. "Based on this achievement, our expectations of quality for all our products have increased, resulting in better quality for all Festida customers", smiles Curtiss.
Heat and Control provided tremendous support throughout the purchase, installation, and commissioning of our new line", recalls Curtiss. "They were the only vendor that was on schedule…in fact they were ahead of schedule. Heat and Control were the only ones who kept their promises and completed everything they said they would", concludes Curtiss. And that has helped Festida Foods make good on their Promise.