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How King’s Hawaiian in Oakwood has fared during the pandemic
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King’s Hawaiian has added a fourth production line at its Oakwood facility. The company hired 100 new workers, bringing the total number of employees to 700.

As the pandemic picked up steam in May 2020, King’s Hawaiian was preparing for a “deep recession,” especially during the holidays. But in the time since, the bakery has added a fourth production line at its Oakwood facility and business has remained strong. 

“We were all shaking our magic eight ball trying to figure out what was going to become of the pandemic,” said Rob Hathy, vice president of manufacturing at King’s Hawaiian. “We remained extremely strong last year, and even more so this year, outpacing our initial growth projections, which has been great.” 

At a cost of about $30 million, King’s Hawaiian added a fourth production line in Sept. 2020. The new line increased the plant’s output by about 30%, and about 100 new workers were hired, bringing the total to 700. The plant is responsible for 75% of King Hawaiian’s production in the United States. 

The fourth line will be the last at the Oakwood plant, though there is still some room to add workers to the existing lines, Hathy said. He said they are looking to expand into the Midwest in the next few years. 

Like other companies across various industries, King’s Hawaiian has faced supply chain issues in the past couple of years. The “two key challenges,” Hathy said, were procuring materials — food ingredients and equipment parts — and transporting the product to customers. 

“We could spend an hour talking about all the things that we had to do different,” Hathy said. “We found new and sometimes better ways of doing things as we had to confront the labor shortage and supply chain challenges.” 

Confronting those challenges involved providing incentives to employees, including shift differentials — paying employees extra for working outside standard business hours — as well as attendance and appreciation bonuses. King’s Hawaiian also ordered materials earlier than usual in anticipation of gummed-up supply chains. 

Hathy credited “strong partnerships'' with suppliers in ensuring the company received the materials it needed. He said their operations have also become tighter and more efficient. 

“We're still a fairly small organization, so a lot of cross-functional collaboration is fairly normal in our business, but I'd say that's increased significantly in the past few years,” he said. “I think in a lot of ways it's brought us to work more closely together across the different parts of our business.” 

“We're blessed to have a strong consumer base and to be selling products that people continue to purchase during these times,” Hathy said.