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It Really IS Rocket Science

Updated: May 7

We could smell the corn flakes before we even opened the car doors. It didn’t help that we finished lunch half an hour earlier and were craving something sweet for dessert. Although we didn’t get a sample, the tour was still a treat.

This was our first time visiting a cereal plant. As you can imagine we were very excited, but we also weren’t sure what to expect. We thought we’d see some mixers, ovens and a few cooling bins. It is cereal after all, how complicated could it be?

It turns out… very complicated.

“It’s the only food you CAN’T make in your kitchen.” the president shared, as we put on our hairnets before entering the facility. I still had my doubts about this so-called “intricate” process, but all those faded away as we walked out to the production floor.

Machines, ovens, conveyors and pipes stretched as far as the eye could see. The plant manager led us through the maze, sharing different facts about the facility.

We stopped near the corn flake line as the manager said, “This machine has been a real challenge to perfect. The slightest change in moisture, heat or air has a huge impact on corn flakes. But we’ve finally mastered it after several months and have been told our corn flakes are the best!”

“Wow! I never knew how much science went into cereal production!” I shared.

That’s when the president smiled at us and said, “Oh, do I have a story for you.”

Back in the second half of the 20th century, NASA engineers experienced considerable downtime between space program projects. Some engineers were so low on work that they ventured out across the country to meet with manufacturers, eager to help with any projects they could get their hands on.

One of these engineers visited this manufacturer we were touring. At the time, the company specialized in shoemaking, but leadership was interested in branching out to new industries. They shared their desire to build a cereal production facility with the engineer, hesitant that it might be a scam. After finishing up their conversation, the engineer agreed to help with the design, shook hands with the owner and went on his way.

After a few months of waiting, the owner was convinced he’d been tricked. That was until the engineer returned with a complete design of a cereal production facility, tightly stuffed into an overflowing cereal box. After an entire year of studying and deciphering these plans, the plant was built, and the rest is history.

“So technically, this really IS rocket science!” the president exclaimed. And he couldn’t be more right.

We learned very quickly on our tours that the “simplest” products require the most intricate processes.

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