Penn State Learning Factory Students Help Local Soup Manufacturer Make Process Improvements

The folks at PennTAP were extremely helpful with implementing the grant for our Learning Factory Project! We are a small specialty food business that desperately needed help implementing process improvements and data tracking of our ingredients. The assistance provided us with PSU engineering students who analyzed our process steps and implemented improvements which assisted us with capacity to meet new customer orders.

Greg Williams, Owner, Happy Valley Soups Co.

The Need

Happy Valley Soup Company (HVS) creates and manufactures homemade gourmet dried soup mixes. As their business continues to expand, they are looking for ways to increase their operational productivity and attract new customers.  

The Projects

PennTAP began working with HVS by connecting the company with the Penn State College of Engineering Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory. 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. A team of senior undergraduate engineering students worked on a project that developed a value stream map of the production process. From the value stream map, the student team was able to identify bottlenecks in the production process. This led to the team developing soup tool kits that decreased preparation time by almost 30%. 

HVS then participated in a second Learning Factory project which built upon the success of the soup kits. The students developed additional soup kit plans for the different soup recipes and evaluated HVS’ inventory management system, providing recommendations to improve inventory tracking. In addition, the team created a prototype to quickly open soup bags and funnel ingredients into soup kits. This prototype addressed one of the bottlenecks in the production process and improved production time 

PennTAP also introduced HVS to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA. HVS applied for the Ben Franklin Innovation Adoption Grant and received an investment, allowing the company to implement food processing procedures, develop documentation and training to meet FDA food safety requirements, and create new marketing initiatives. 

To drive increases in sales, PennTAP connected HVS with the Penn State Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Search Engine Marketing COMM/IST 450a class. Through the class, students worked with HVS to develop online marketing campaigns to drive visitors to their website and track how well their advertising campaigns were converting website visits into sales.

Outcomes and Benefits

HVS continues to work with PennTAP and Penn State on projects to keep their business growing. The company has reported economic benefits of $105,000 to date from the interactions they have had through PennTAP. They have also reported that these interactions have created two new jobs and helped retain six jobs. 

About the Client

Happy Valley Soup Co.
4158 Penns Valley Road  
Spring Mills, PA 16875 
Phone: (814) 422-7687 
County: Centre
Industry: Food & Beverage