Frito-Lay’s Topeka, Kan., plant operates 24 hours a day. So while most of us are sleeping, Catherine Swift, ME’10, is monitoring 10 production lines and the 59 automated packaging tubes that take raw ingredients like corn and potatoes and turn them into bagged snack foods, ready for supermarket shelves.
“As a core plant, we produce major products like Doritos, Lays, Sunchips, Tostitos and Fritos,” says Swift. Each year the Topeka plant produces over 175 million pounds of snacks.
Swift, who has been with Frito-Lay for four years, started out there on an undergraduate internship. Now she is a manager on the plant’s third shift.
Swift closely monitors the plant’s production process for moisture and oil levels, and each shift compares its batches to a reference product for appearance, flavor and texture. Swift ensures that the snacks that leave the Topeka plant are the same quality as the ones made in other locations.
“We ship directly to stores, so our warehouse operation is very similar to large delivery companies,” Swift explains. “For our process, shuttle robots run through our aisles finding products and getting them ready for shipping to stores throughout the country.”
When Swift isn’t working, she coaches a local high school girls’ soccer team, making use of skills she honed as a Lady Miner goalkeeper for four years at S&T. She also frequently makes trips back to Rolla.
“Since graduating, I haven’t missed a career fair yet,” says Swift. “I return every spring and fall to recruit other Miners.”
Several other Missouri S&T alumni also work in the Topeka plant, including Chris Emesih, EMgt’14, Kori Louvall, EMgt’13, Everett Moore, ME’86, Ryan Schmidt, EMgt’13, Aimee Snell, ME’13, Brooke Ryan, ArchE’11, and Amiel Weerasinghe, CE’10, MBA’12.
No matter where she goes, Swift says she is always asked about her favorite snack. “I used to like the Nacho Cheese Doritos best, but something about working third shift has me really starting to like Funyuns.”