TOPEKA, KAN. — Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a division of Colgate-Palmolive, officially opened the doors to its newest manufacturing plant in Tonganoxie, Kan, on Oct 16. The 365,000-square-foot “smart” facility will double the company’s production capacity for canned pet food.

Noel Wallace, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Colgate-Palmolive Co.; John Hazlin, president and CEO of Hill’s Pet Nutrition; Chad Sharp, director of manufacturing for the Hill’s Tonganoxie plant; and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly all addressed the group of attendees representing of local and state government, academia and industry at the official groundbreaking.

Hill's new facility leverages several advancements in technology, including AISource: Hill's Pet Nutrition

“Hill’s is a vital part of the Colgate-Palmolive company and our investment in this impressive new plant represents our commitment to Kansas, growth of our business and the advancement to our purpose,” Wallace said during the plant opening. “By investing in this plant, we are investing in growth. The sophistication and precision of the Tonganoxie plant will enable greater innovation in our product formulations.”

Hill’s broke ground on the new greenfield facility, which is located on more than 80 acres of land, in 2021. The plant – one of three Hill’s manufacturing locations in Kansas – started operations on Sept. 22.

The new facility will expand Hill's capacity for canned pet foodSource: Hill's Pet Nutrition

“For 75 years, Hill’s and our people have been working to transform the lives of pets through science-led nutrition,” Hazlin told grand opening attendees. “Since the creation of our first diet, Hill’s has grown to be a global leader in science-led pet nutrition, with products available in 86 countries around the world.”

The new Hill’s Tonganoxie plant, which will produce more than 170 varieties of wet pet food, will continue the expansion of Hill’s Science Diet and Prescription Diet brands. The facility features strategic automation and technological advancements above and beyond what exists in the pet food industry, according to the company. The facility’s “smart” technology includes:

  • Artificial Intelligence to power a digital food safety vigilance system
  • Automation and robotic devices
  • Enhanced food safety systems
  • End-to-end digital process/safety monitoring

“This greenfield plant will not only help us to increase our capacity to meet our demand, it will also allow us to unlock the power of cutting-edge science to improve the lives of pets in the development and manufacture of new nutritional solutions and product formats that best serve the evolving needs of the pets and the people who care for them,” Hazlin continued.

Also in attendance at the opening ceremony was Buddy, the robotic dog – just one of the plant’s many automated technologies on display. Boston Scientific’s robot will play a vital role in the smart plant’s operation – fetching product and formula samples for quality lab testing.

Benefits of the new smart technology and processes throughout the plant include helping improve speed to market by shortening the production cycle. The plant will also provide the tools to innovate new formats and products to support Hill’s mission to support the health and wellbeing of pets.

“Hill’s will utilize technology to work alongside staff and a new state-of-the-art Mission Control Center to provide unprecedented visibility and monitoring through every aspect of pet food making, from ingredient intake to final packaging,” Sharp said. “The production process is an entirely ‘enclosed system’ from ingredient mixing to cooking and container filling – designed to prevent food exposure to environmental contaminants.”

Hill's is using automated technology, like robot Buddy, in its new facility

Buddy, the robotic dog will fetch product and formula samples for quality lab testing.

| Source: Sosland Publishing Co. / Kimberlie Clyma
The plant was awarded LEED Gold certification – the first site within Colgate-Palmolive operations to achieve that standard. Among many sustainability focused features at the plant is a water reclamation system that reduces overall water usage by treating and recycling wastewater on-site to be repurposed for future use.

 “I could not be more pleased that Hill’s is increasing its investment in our state by opening this facility,” Governor Kelly said at the grand opening. “This significant investment is creating more than 100 good-paying, skilled jobs for Kansans.

“With this new facility, Hill’s is using AI to ensure pet food meets quality and safety standards, robots to shuttle ingredients around, and other smart technology to more than double its wet pet food production capacity,” she added. “It’s incredible – and it’s happening right here in Tonganoxie, Kan.”

Hill’s has worked in close partnership with lead design firm Gray, the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Leavenworth County Development Corporation, the City of Tonganoxie, Evergy and Kansas Gas Service to build the new facility.

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