Matthews Partners with Penn State Students on Innovative Labeling Solution for Happy Valley Soup Company
The Happy Valley Soup Company Tackles Growth Challenges with an Integrated and Scalable Labeling Solution Built Just for Them
Increased demand is a good problem to have, unless limited resources make it difficult to meet that demand. The Happy Valley Soup Company overcame such difficulties—and laid the foundation for expansive growth—with the help of Matthews Marking Systems and a group of Penn State engineering students.
The Happy Valley Soup Company needed to boost production of its gourmet soup mixes in response to positive growth. This meant they also needed to improve their manufacturing and inventory tracking to comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements. In order to maximize their resources, the company turned to Matthews Marking Systems and Penn State’s College of Engineering to help design and implement a custom production lot code tracking system that would work with their existing systems.
The Happy Valley Soup Company is a small business success story that is still being written. Founded in 1991, they recently expanded their line of gourmet dried soup mixes by entering the mass retail market. Company President, Greg Williams recognized that this move would drive a significant need for increased production to meet rising demand from grocery store chains, high-end retailers, their own website, and Amazon.
They soon realized, however, that adapting their production wasn’t a simple undertaking. Increased production required improved manufacturing and inventory tracking for FDA compliance. Information such as name, address, license number, lot number or other identification number, proper product name, best-buy dates, expiration dates, and serving size are all FDA requirements. From robust consulting services to implementation, the team equipped the Happy Valley Soup Company with the coding and tracking system they needed to grow their business.
Happy Valley Soup Company (HVS) already had a lot on their plate, so they applied for engineering support from the Pennsylvania State University’s (PSU) College of Engineering Learning Factory program working in conjunction with Charles Purdum, Professor of Practice & Director of Industry Relations in the Department of Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering. The Learning Factory program helps bring the real world into the classroom by providing senior engineering students with practical, hands-on experience working on industry-sponsored and client-based capstone design projects.
As part of this program, Penn State’s Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering department sponsored one of its summer intern students to work with Matthews and HVS to bring this project to realization. Professor Purdum had worked with Matthews in the past and was aware of their capabilities and recognized how Matthews equipment could benefit HVS. Professor Purdum explained the project’s success being the result of “combining the resources of our highly capable students with the capabilities of Matthews to develop a cost-effective solution for Greg and his team at HVS”.
The team at Penn State was immediately interested in the Happy Valley Soup Company project, and connected with Steve Jupena, a graduate of PSU’s Mechanical Engineering program and Senior Director of Sales at Matthews Marking Systems. “Professor Purdum and I had talked in recent years about opportunities to partner with their engineering students,” says Steve. “When this opportunity came up, it was clearly an ideal fit for our team here at Matthews.” There were two components to a successful solution, and both had to be customized to meet the specific needs of the Happy Valley Soup Company.
On the software side of things, Matthews provided their industry-leading MPERIA® platform for automated and centralized marking and coding management. In addition to donating the system, Matthews provided ongoing consultation to address some unique needs related to integration with Happy Valley Soup Company’s legacy ERP system, OrderTime. Though the ERP had been adequate when Happy Valley Soup was selling at small venues, it was not capable of handling modern and automated marking, coding, and traceability. For instance, it lacked the ability to connect directly to another system for simple data export. So the Matthews team created an innovative solution involving a custom plug-in and barcode scans to transfer vital variable information—like proper date and lot codes—seamlessly from OrderTime to MPERIA.
When it came to hardware, Happy Valley Soup had been doing all their marking manually, without the benefit of a conveyor or any other automated material handling. That approach could not be scaled to meet their growth demands. They had to overcome this challenge or lose their new opportunities. “To address the material handling challenge, Happy Valley Soup needed a printing station that would hold the packaging in the proper position, trigger the MPERIA system to print, and traverse the Matthews printhead across the package to apply the right codes in the right spot at the right time,” Steve explains. In addition, the new print station had to work with the existing set up in the Happy Valley Soup facility and be both inexpensive to build and simple to use.
The combined team of Matthews Marking System professionals and students from PSU’s Learning Factory summer internship worked together in close collaboration. They delivered a unique two-part solution that met all of the needs and gave the Happy Valley Soup Company a wholly new and much more efficient and effective system for labeling their product.
Greg Williams was very pleased that Happy Valley Soup gained a modern, scalable marking solution that will support and enable their growth over the long term. Professor Purdum’s engineering students gained hands-on experience applying their skills to a real-world challenge while working with industry professionals. And Matthews Marking Systems had the opportunity to support small business growth and give engineering students real-world experience.
About Happy Valley Soup Company
Happy Valley Soup Company, originally founded by Mary Ellen Williams in 1991 under the name Log Cabin Soups, produces sixteen gourmet pre-packaged soup mixes made with freeze-dried ingredients. Located in Pennsylvania, the company sells its all natural, eco-friendly products across seven states in grocery stores and premium retailers including Balducci’s, Williams Sonoma, and Yankee Candle. They also sell online at www.HappyValleySoupCompany.com and Amazon Marketplace.