Food Engineering

How to get management approval

April 6, 2004
In the case of Pepperidge Farm's Bloomfield, Conn., bakery, ROI was just the first half of the equation.

Whether it's a maintenance enhancement, a new piece of equipment or a greenfield project, engineers are obliged to make the financial case for capital projects before executive approval is granted. In the case of Pepperidge Farm's Bloomfield, Conn., bakery, ROI was just the first half of the equation.

As the operations and engineering team was preparing to make its case in early 2001 corporate parent Campbell Soup Co. was engaged in a top management overhaul. The global reorganization threatened to postpone and possibly derail the bakery division's project, and the immediate priority was developing support from the new executives.

"Less labor and more throughput made the financial argument solid, but the big sell was convincing management to do it now," remembers David W. Watson, Pepperidge's vice president, engineering. "There was a good six months worth of presentations and selling in Camden (N.J.) before the project was finally presented for board approval."

The discussion was not about doing the project for less. Mass flow meters rather than volumetric devices control water and other liquid flows because that is the corporate standard; likewise, load cells provide precise readings from 10,000-gal. liquid ingredient tanks and ultrasonic level sensors monitor 175,000-lb. flour silos, not because less expensive technology couldn't be used but because that's the level of precision desired.

"I take heat every time we build a plant because you can read about companies building facilities with four lines at a fraction of the cost of the Bloomfield bakery," says Watson. "But we have a senior management team that understands what it takes to build a plant that will be around for 30 years and can be cleaned and maintained to the level necessary to produce high-quality products."