The distinctive sweetness of King's Hawaiian bread has made it an American favorite and fueled the growth of the company. Robert Taira created the recipe for the iconic round loaves 50 years ago in Hawaii. Taira's business – King's Bakery in Honolulu – became a destination for tourists who often shipped bread back to the mainland as gifts for friends and family.
As the appetite for the King's bread grew, Taira moved his family to Southern California and built a 30,000-square-foot facility. The bread's popularity continued to expand, and so did the family's operation. In the 1990s, King's Hawaiian added 40,000 square feet to its California bakery, and in 2004, the company built a 150,000-square-foot automated baking facility and corporate headquarters nearby.
By 2010, King's Hawaiian had reached capacity once again. Its California factory and bakery were operating 24/7, and consumer demand was spreading across the country. The company had also expanded its product line beyond the signature round loaves to baking dinner rolls, sub rolls and sandwich buns.
With rising gas prices and other transportation costs weighing on the bakery's budget, King's Hawaiian decided to build a new facility in the Eastern United States. This way, the company could get its growing family of products to store shelves more quickly and cost-effectively.
King's Hawaiian chose to build a highly automated 125,000-square-foot facility in Oakwood,Ga., and set a goal to be up and running within 10 months. The timeline posed a challenge, especially considering the complexity of the project. The entire bread-baking process required a total of 11 specialized machines, manufactured by a different original equipment manufacturer (OEM), with a control and information platform requiring a unique design environment, user interface and vendor support model.
While the initial project deadline was tight, King's Hawaiian wanted to address its long-term needs for the plant's information infrastructure.
“We've been a small, family-run company, so building a new plant 3,500 miles away in Georgia was a huge step,” said Mike Williams, director of engineering for King's Hawaiian. “We wanted to be sure we could look in on the process remotely from California to make sure production meets our customers' expectations.”
King's Hawaiian also wanted advanced data-collection capabilities to help it consistently bake the highest-quality products, as well as gain operational efficiencies across the enterprise.
“As a company, we haven't done a lot of formal reporting or evaluation, and whatever data we've captured has basically been penciled in,” Williams said. “Since we were building a new facility, we wanted the infrastructure needed to capture information from all fronts.”
The entire operation centers around the baking process. The first step in making Hawaiian bread is the precise measurement and blending of dry ingredients. The dry mix is then transferred into a continuous mixing machine where the liquid ingredients are added. Once mixed, the dough moves to a machine in another room where it is shaped into balls and then separated into aluminum pans to make the various products. From there, the dough is transferred to another machine – the proofer box where it rises. Then, it is on to the ovens. When the cooked bread comes out, it must be cooled on a long conveyor before it is sent to the packaging machine where it is then inspected and shipped.
“With more than 11 machines required for our production process, we couldn't just turn each OEM loose without clear specifications and an overall integrated design architecture,” said Williams. “If we had, we would have had to learn several types of PLCs and HMIs, and stock several varieties of the same part for repairs.”
In addition to standardized specifications, King's Hawaiian wanted a plant that its own staff could easily maintain and troubleshoot. “I'm a big supporter of ensuring a plant can support itself as much as possible,” Williams said.