July 1, 2009
green logistics | Green Best Practices

Going green is a piece of cake

going green is a piece of cake

It might sound complicated and burdensome, but Tasty Baking discovered that building green was easy as pie.

By David Maloney

A hit with Philadelphians almost from their introduction in 1914, Tastykake brand snack cakes and pies have proved they're no flash in the pan. Nearly 100 years later, they still occupy a place alongside cheese steaks and soft pretzels in the pantheon of local favorites.

But Tastykake products are no longer just a regional delicacy. Their manufacturer, Tasty Baking Co., has been distributing its wares to supermarkets, convenience stores, and other outlets up and down the East Coast for decades. And as a result of deals with major retailers like Wal-Mart, they're now available in stores nationwide.

That kind of growth is great for the bottom line, but it can create headaches for the operations side of a business. Tasty Baking is no exception. A few years ago, the company was forced to confront an unwelcome reality: It had outgrown both the six-floor bakery it has occupied in North Philadelphia since 1922 and the small distribution facility it opened across the street in the 1980s.

That put the company in a quandary. Tasty Baking was determined to remain in Philadelphia—the company had grown deep roots in the community and wanted to retain as much of its workforce as possible. But its choices were limited. Expanding the current facility—an aging building with multiple floors—wasn't practical, says Autumn Bayles, senior vice president of strategic operations. Yet finding a new site wouldn't be easy either. In Philadelphia, as in many older cities, suitable land for building is in short supply.

After looking at various alternatives, Tasty Baking came up with a solution. It would build on reclaimed land at the site of the former Philadelphia Navy Yard—a deal that was sweetened by city and state incentives. In April, Tasty Baking moved into a new 35,000-square-foot headquarters it built on the site. And construction is currently under way on a combination production-distribution facility where the base's military prison once stood.

What's remarkable about the facilities isn't their location on a brownfield site, however. It's their eco-friendly profile. The two buildings are showpieces of green construction, built with methods and materials chosen specifically for their minimal impact on the environmental.

From brown to green
Though it's now being touted as a model of environmental responsibility, the company didn't go into the project with any specific plans to go green. The idea actually came from the Navy Yard site developer, Liberty Property Trust, from which Tasty Baking will lease its buildings. Tasty Baking quickly came on board, however, once it saw that being environmentally friendly was also smart business.

"It's the right thing to do," says Bayles. "If you're going to build new, then you may as well [go with] sustainable initiatives that help the environment. Our customers also encouraged it."

The first challenge was to find an environmentally responsible means of reclaiming the Navy Yard site. "This was a brownfield site, which meant we had to deal with a previously developed property with abandoned buildings," says Steve Kopp, an associate and project manager for Cubellis, the architecture firm that designed Tasty Baking's facilities. Although the old buildings were eventually torn down, the developers recycled the materials from the structures rather than send them to a landfill.

When it came to the construction of the new buildings, the architects chose materials with an eye toward eco-friendliness. For example, wherever possible, designers have used locally sourced materials, which require less fuel to transport. They're also choosing low-VOC paints and carpets in order to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds.

Reducing energy usage in the new facility is also a priority. A white roof will reflect heat and minimize energy requirements. The company is installing energy-efficient fixtures like fluorescent lamps and switches that turn off lights when they're not in use. Tasty Baking has also made a commitment to PECO, its electric supplier, to purchase at least 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources, like wind power.

Inside, low-flow water-saving fixtures will be installed in restrooms. Outside, rainwater will be reclaimed to irrigate landscaping. The landscaping will feature drought-resistant native plants to reduce the need for watering. The site plans also include special parking places for hybrid vehicles, although employees will be encouraged to take public transportation to work when possible.

Under one roof
Tasty Baking's green initiative won't end with the construction, however. The operations that will take place inside the new production-distribution facility are also being engineered for sustainability. For example, the bakery's main ovens will use a thermal oil system that heats and circulates oil for energy-efficient baking. Leftover batter will be given to local farmers as animal feed.

The distribution operations, which will occupy about 100,000 square feet of the 345,000-square-foot facility, will also be a model of eco-friendliness. Unlike the old DC, where product was stored on the floor, the new facility will feature four levels of racking. Using the vertical space will allow the company to reduce the building's overall footprint, minimizing heating, cooling, and lighting requirements.

There will be other eco-enhancements as well. Consolidating bakery operations on a single floor, instead of six levels, will cut down on the need for handling equipment. Co-locating distribution and production in the same building will eliminate the need for vehicles to shuttle finished goods across the street to a separate warehouse. In addition, the internal combustion-powered lift trucks currently in use will be replaced with battery-powered forklifts.

Inside the facility, recycled material will be used for both product packaging and distribution cartons. And Tasty Baking plans to make use of pallet pooling systems like CHEP's to reduce the use of one-way pallets wherever possible.

Perhaps the most significant environmental improvement of all will be a big reduction in the use of paper. Tasty Baking hired OPSdesign Consulting, a firm that specializes in warehouse operations design, to engineer a paperless order processing system. The centerpiece of the new system will be voice-directed order picking technology that will replace the old pick tickets. The facility will use voice technology from Lucas Systems to direct full pallet and case picking. Workers will be equipped with Motorola mobile computers that interface with the company's SAP software systems.

To ease the transition, Tasty Baking installed the voice system in the old DC last January. "The intent was to pilot the system in the current building before moving to the new," explains Bayles. "'Certain things came to light that [we will be able to address] before moving to the new building."

The new bakery is due to open by the end of the year, while operations in the distribution portion of the building are expected to begin by the second quarter of 2010. Once the site is fully operational, about 100,000 cases will ship from the facility each week—a number that's expected to hit 120,000 during peak periods.

Piece of cake
Once the construction is complete, Tasty Baking will be applying for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The company hopes to obtain a Platinum designation for the office building and a Silver certification for the production-distribution facility.

That's pretty heady stuff for a company that didn't set out to build green. But as Tasty Baking discovered, the combined social and business benefits made going green an easy choice.

Or as Autumn Bayles puts it: "We found we could have our cake and eat it, too."

About the Author

David Maloney
Chief Editor
David Maloney has been a journalist for more than 35 years and is currently the editorial director for DC Velocity and Supply Chain Quarterly magazines. In this role, he is responsible for the editorial content of both brands of Agile Business Media. Dave joined DC Velocity in April of 2004. Prior to that, he was a senior editor for Modern Materials Handling magazine. Dave also has extensive experience as a broadcast journalist. Before writing for supply chain publications, he was a journalist, television producer and director in Pittsburgh. Dave combines a background of reporting on logistics with his video production experience to bring new opportunities to DC Velocity readers, including web videos highlighting top distribution and logistics facilities, webcasts and other cross-media projects. He continues to live and work in the Pittsburgh area.

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