Two million pizzas are manufactured every day in Florence. Two million. Every day.

Surprised? You might be equally surprised to learn that every Freschetta pizza bought in the United States comes out of this Schwan Food Co. plant. With 364,000 square feet and 1,100 employees, something is always happening, and if Randy Ingolia has anything to say about it "” and he does, as he's the director of manufacturing operations "” everyone will be having fun.

"I've gotta enjoy it and I've gotta have fun," Ingolia enthuses.

Consumer demand and innovations in the industry have transformed frozen pizza into a highly competitive market where commodity prices can eliminate profits and proprietary processes, such as creating an irregular crust similar to hand-tossed-dough, are closely held secrets.

The Florence facility, for its part, is outfitted with state-of-the-art technology but Ingolia says it's just a bunch of machinery.

"Not one piece of equipment out there makes pizza," he says. "People make pizza."

This people-first focus is pervasive.

"I'd be a fool to think for a moment that I can run this business successfully," Ingolia says. "It isn't a single-man operation."

Ingolia holds monthly roundtable discussions with 45 employees randomly selected by a computer.

He recalls how one simple comment led to significant change. "An employee said, 'I can't get a broom. I wait 20 minutes for a broom sometimes.' I said, 'My gosh, I think we can afford to buy a bunch of brooms. What's going on?'" Ingolia says. "It wasn't the broom we were out of. The problem is that we had an inventory system that was misaligned to the demand. I dealt with an infrastructure issue that made our business better."

Another way employees can communicate hands-on experience is through the "I Have an Idea" program. One idea led to the design and fabrication of a new piece of equipment for a one-time cost of $650,000 that saves the company $1.1 million annually.

"The Alfred Schwan Award of Manufacturing Excellence is the trophy given to the plant that best displays continuous improvement performance," Ingolia notes. "We're the only plant to win it two years in a row."

He beams like a proud father but turns serious when explaining how Schwan Foods earned the honor: focusing on the people who make the pizza.

"For the most part, most people want to work hard and do a good job," he says. "When they don't do a good job, I tell the managers they need to think, 'What am I doing wrong?' (The employee) either doesn't know how or doesn't know what's expected."

Ingolia says the payoff is an engaged and loyal workforce, making it possible for the plant to consistently meet its goals.