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Gray Shines in Double Feature for Pet Food Processing Magazine.

Gray is well represented in the latest issue of a leading pet food industry publication. From its cover article to a feature on finding the perfect construction partner, Pet Food Processing magazine’s March 2024 issue had a distinctly Gray hue.

In Numbers

  • Tonganoxie, KS
  • 366,850 s.f.
    Square Footage
  • 27 months

The big story in this month’s issue is the newly commissioned manufacturing plant for Hill’s Pet Nutrition in Tonganoxie, KS. A Gray-led project from start to finish, this highly automated facility required services from the entire Gray family of companies. Gray provided pre-construction, engineering, design, construction, digital, and equipment services, including solutions for robotic material handling, integrated controls, sanitary process design, and custom equipment fabrication.

"Gray was the design-build lead for everything you see here today...They [have] built one of the most impressive manufacturing facilities we’ve seen."
Chad Sharp, Director of Manufacturing

Hill's Pet Nutrition

Following construction, Gray continued to partner with Hill’s, providing equipment installation, programming, and commissioning, as well as ongoing support.


Among the plant’s most innovative solutions are the autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) employed throughout the facility. These robots perform manual tasks using lasers, RFID chips, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to accurately identify, sort, and transport products throughout the facility.


At the strategic heart of the facility sits the Mission Control Center, a space filled with monitors linked to a network of cameras and sensors at each stage of operations. From there, Hill’s team members can precisely track and adjust processes for ingredient dosing, product mixing, canned product cooking & sterilization, and packaging & distribution. The location of the control center is as symbolic as it is practical.


“Our state-of-the-art Mission Control Center provides unprecedented visibility and monitoring through every aspect of pet food making,” says Chad Sharp, director of manufacturing for the Hill’s Tonganoxie plant.


In addition to its robotics and automation capabilities, the plant also features several impressive sustainability measures, including a water reclamation system and opportunities for recycling pet food ingredients and packaging materials.

Building a Dynamic Duo


The issue’s second article featuring Gray delved into a challenge for the pet food industry with which Gray is well acquainted. For pet food processors looking to expand production or break into a new market, finding a quality partner with experience designing and building pet food plants is no small feat. Still more challenging is developing a relationship over the course of multiple projects, which demands trust, longevity, and adequate capacity from both parties.


Fortunately, Gray has garnered exactly the insights, experience, and resources needed to serve as a successful partner within this industry, executing more than $2.6 billion in pet food projects over the past five years.


Seth Tamme, manager of Gray’s Business Development for the Food & Beverage market, shared the company’s philosophy for developing a fully integrated service model.


“We’ve built this great family of companies to be an extension of our customers,” he says. “We’re not going to change their process, but… provide innovative ways for efficiencies based on our expertise and knowledge in the industry.”


“We have services that actually manufacture the equipment and provide processors with tangible materials to put in their facilities. With this, [Gray] adds value to our customers.”

"As well as experience, it’s important that processors find a partner that can offer them additional services to fully round out an entire project. Through Gray’s family of companies, it provides not only design and construction services, but also integrated controls and robotics, equipment manufacturing, process engineering, automation, and more."
Nicole Kerwin, Digital Media Associate Editor

Pet Food Processing Magazine

Much of Gray’s success in the sector stems from the company’s practice of adding team members to a project who are familiar with pet food manufacturing and its many operational needs. The implications of this mentality extend far beyond the construction of the facility, impacting the customer’s day-to-day production. Brett Goode, Gray’s executive vice president for the Food & Beverage market, emphasizes this point.


“It’s critical that there are people within the team that understand the [customer’s] operational needs beyond just the building blocks,” Goode says. “We have subject-matter experts, some of which have worked in the pet food industry for a long time [who] bring practical knowledge. These experts know the operational components of the facility…and participate in the design at an early stage to set those projects up for success.”


For more information, check out Pet Food Processing’s March 2024 issue.


To learn how Gray serves as a premier partner for the pet food industry, click here.

    March 18, 2024
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