hershey west plant
Kisses roll down the line at the New West Hershey manfacturing complex. Photo provided. 

During Hershey’s grand opening of “the world’s most technologically advanced chocolate making facility in mid-September, Terry O’Day, senior v.p.  –  global operations,  not only touted the investments made regarding automation and technology, he also stressed the fact that the 340,000-sq.-ft. expansion to the West Hershey manufacturing complex was “designed for people, not machines.”

In an exclusive interview with Candy Industry, O’Day detailed the process that went into building the $300-million plant.

terry oday hershey
Terry O'Day

“We looked at all our plants built in the last 10 years,” he explained. “Typically, a good engineer looks at the most efficient layout. This time, we used a different management style; it was much more participatory than the traditional hierarchical approach.”

The shift in thinking began with engineers examining the kind of tasks operators do during processes, O’Day continued.

“For example, what information does an operator need in order to perform well at a specific location?” O’Day said. “Where do you locate the team room so that operators can meet? And is there a process lab nearby, say within two to three feet, to conduct tests?

Those kinds of questions produced a variety of critical design elements, such as the inclusion of as much natural light as possible.

“Humans tend to work better with natural light,” O’Day pointed out. “As a result, we put in many windows and we have two atriums.”

In addition, there’s an automated information system tied into all the lines.

“An operator can swipe his card, then go into a data bank to check on all the steps and tests required and get a printed readout or histogram,” the senior v.p. of operations explained.

When asked whether the company has embraced such programs as lean manufacturing, O’Day responded by saying “We’re 80% lean.”

He went on to elaborate that the company has a “best of class” philosophy, one that takes the best practices from continuous improvement programs and applies them to its operating game plan. In this manner, the company has a number of tools to reach safety, quality, efficiency and hygiene goals.

In working with its equipment suppliers, Hershey also went to great lengths to specify customized improvements to meet specific needs.

“The improvements in quality have been dramatic,” he said. To demonstrate, O’Day unwrapped a chocolate Kiss, highlighting how the item beautifully met all product specifications, including its distinctive shape.

“We’re within millimeters regarding product parameters,” he said.

The company is also within millimeters of getting a Silver Leed certification for the facility, a process that builds on the “zero waste to landfill” commitment made by the company when it began construction.

During the entire 18-month construction period, no materials were disposed to a landfill and the facility continues to operate under those guidelines.

Of course, when O’Day was asked whether the West Hershey facility represented the crown jewel in his career, he quickly replied, “I hope not.” As with any engineer, there’s always a new project on hand.

In this instance, O’Day is looking at a facility in Asia.  Seems the company’s joint venture with Lotte in China has exceeded expectations, taxing the capacity of the plant in China.

“We’re looking at expanding the facility there since we’re scrambling to keep up with demand,” O’Day said. “We’re also considering building another plant, perhaps China, but definitely Asia.”

Naturally, expect O’Day to draw on the West Hershey model, and no doubt improve upon it.