How Johnston’s Bakery Accelerated Its Path to a ‘Pick and Place’ Solution

Customer story

Johnston’s Bakery’s frozen dough manufacturing facility in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

How Johnston’s Bakery Accelerated Its Path to a ‘Pick and Place’ Solution

With HowToRobot’s help, the US-based frozen dough manufacturer was able to scope its automation needs and get a range of proposals from suppliers 3-5 times faster than they normally would.

How do you find the time and resources to go through with your automation plans?

Like many other manufacturers, the family-owned Johnston’s Bakery needed automation but had limited resources to bring their ambitions to life.

Recently joining the company as President of its frozen division, Pete Augustine came from a larger organization that had staff dedicated to acquiring automation solutions. In his new role, however, he was facing the task alone.

“When I came in, the company was undergoing an expansion of a product line, and it turned out to involve a very manual process that would have required a person to catch dough in a pan and move it onto a rack all day long. It wouldn’t be fair to ask a person to do that repetitive work, day in and day out,” he says, continuing:

“Putting in a robust automation solution instead would simplify things from all perspectives.”

How to automate when time is limited?

Although Pete Augustine had some previous experience with automation, he already had his hands full with overseeing strategy, sales, and operations at the expanded frozen dough manufacturing facility in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Automating the ‘dough panning’ task would require extensive preparations in scoping the project, doing market research, and finding suitable vendors – further adding to his workload.

That’s when he decided to work with HowToRobot and seek assistance with the preparations. By letting HowToRobot facilitate the automation project through its platform, Pete could take a step back and let independent experts guide the process.

“HowToRobot’s team and platform were great to work with and hugely efficient. If we had to do all the work of finding an automation supplier and solution ourselves, it would easily have taken 3-5 times longer,” says Pete Augustine.

Planning the purchase of an automation solution involves time-consuming preparations, such as scoping the project, describing and documenting the process in a way that potential suppliers can easily understand, and – not least – obtaining proposals from a range of suitable vendors. By relying on HowToRobot’s team and platform to facilitate these steps, Pete Augustine was able to minimize his efforts while vastly speeding up the procurement process.

“After sketching out what we were looking for, HowToRobot’s team was able to come up with a scope of work, take it to market, and come back with 3-4 opportunities in a few weeks – that was invaluable,” he says.

Where to find trustworthy suppliers?

Pete Augustine, President of Johnston’s Bakery's frozen dough division, turned to HowToRobot for help finding solutions to automate a highly repetitive dough-panning job.
Pete Augustine, President of Johnston’s Bakery's frozen dough division, turned to HowToRobot for help finding solutions to automate a highly repetitive dough-panning job.

One of the challenges when looking for a new automation solution, acknowledges Pete, is how to find suitable suppliers that can be trusted in a relatively short time.

“The automation market is evolving every day, which makes it hard to keep up,” he says, adding:

“There’s the fear about who you deal with. Are the larger players making the solutions more complex than you need? Can the smaller ones be trusted?”

Using HowToRobot allowed Pete Augustine to tap into its comprehensive, global overview of robot and automation suppliers, covering more than 1,600 companies in the US alone. This helped him quickly get in touch with a few relevant integrators.

“HowToRobot’s platform takes some of the screening work out of finding reputable vendors to deal with. It quickly narrows down the funnel and identifies a few good suppliers you can trust,” says Pete Augustine.

How to make a decision?

Identifying a range of relevant suppliers is only one step in a longer process before a buying decision can be made. Having vendor meetings, receiving and evaluating budgetary quotes, refining the scope, and getting to a final proposal all take time and require a structured process to work efficiently. For Pete Augustine, this was one of the key benefits of working with HowToRobot, whose team did everything from facilitating meetings with suppliers to ensuring proposals were matching the bakery’s needs.

“I was very impressed by HowToRobot’s project management and didn’t expect the level of detail and attention to milestones. They are holding vendors very accountable to both timing and scope definition,” he says.

HowToRobot facilitated a range of budgetary quotes for Johnston’s Bakery from integrators, who all had a different approach to automating the dough-panning process. This quickly helped Pete Augustine understand various options and price points, which he could present to the owner of the family business.

“From our owner’s perspective, HowToRobot helped us get some peace of mind that we were not getting taken advantage of and that we truly understood what the market price was going to be,” says Pete Augustine, concluding:

“HowToRobot has really made it easy to understand our automation options and get very quickly to a decision point – I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again when we need something.”