Ground was broken on the St. Joseph project in May 2015. Managers, office staff and plant supervisors were hired and in place by mid-June and new salesmen were brought on board to begin selling to the company’s new base of customers. The company expected to need about 75 hourly workers to start up the operation. By the end of the year, total employees should number approximately 130.
The design of the plant is simple, Cowins said. “I like straight lines; everything seems to be more efficient in a straight line,” and this linear layout is evident at the new plant, which stems largely from what operators have learned at the company’s other plants. For example, the company’s Salt Lake City plant has just one shipping door and one receiving door where 90 million lbs. of product is moved each year, often requiring production lines to zig zag through the facility. The design at the new plant allows for bellies that are received to move directly into the injection room and immediately into the smokehouses. They next move through the blast cells and into the holding coolers, followed by pressing and another cooler before moving to the slicing department. After slicing, the strips are moved into the finished product cooler and finally, out the receiving door.
“From the time that belly hits our receiving dock until the time it goes out the back door, it should be in our plant no more than three days,” Cowins said.
The facility also incorporates some of the company’s history, including a photo of John R. Daily posing at his meat shop in Montana. The office space boasts a modern design and includes a spacious conference room that is adjacent to a test kitchen and can be divided by folding doors to accommodate separate groups when needed.
Daily’s core customers have demonstrated the sustained growth of the bacon segment with demand increases that have topped 4 million lbs. among the company’s top customers. “We were claiming that we were at capacity three years ago,” Cowins said. Even so, the company was somehow able to wring out more product from its two plants, so the timing for a new plant to come on line couldn’t be better. Just to keep up with Daily’s current customer base and not taking into account the new territories being opened up, “We need this facility,” Cowins explained.
In terms of demand and how much more demand there might be for bacon, Cowins said the moving target is assessing where the ceiling is. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out. We were there three years ago; we were there last year; we see the ceiling coming two years from now, but every time that we anticipate that ceiling we end up just crashing right through it.”
If and when the demand levels off or declines, Cowins said his company expects all of its strategic growth to pay off.
“We want to put ourselves in the position that whenever there is a demand for bacon, they’re demanding Daily’s.”