Baking Management’s 2007 Capital Investment of the Year Award goes to Fresh Start Bakeries, the primary global supplier of bakery products for McDonald’s Corp., for innovations in its newest Ontario, Calif. plant. The bakery has been producing buns and English muffins for the fast-food giant at its City of Industry location since 1971 and recently began producing buns for the Jack-in-the-Box hamburger chain as well.
Fresh Start’s roots date back to 1962 when Herald Freund founded the company, which then operated under the name Herald Freund Co. Freund sold the business in the 1970s, and it became Fresh Start Bakeries in 1982. At that point, the bakery owned three plants under the Fresh Start banner. Today, the bakery has grown to include an impressive 27, soon to be 28, plants around the globe.
No stranger to investing in growth, Fresh Start recently moved its operation from a 67,000-sq.-ft. plant in City of Industry, Calif. to a new 189,000-sq.-ft. plant in Ontario, Calif. The new bakery is allowing Fresh Start to increase its bun production by about 25 percent to 10,000 dozen 4-in. buns per hour and is the largest bakery worldwide in output. The entire relocation process took roughly two years from the time the company first started looking at real estate and speaking with equipment manufacturers to mid-August of this year, when the final push occurred.
The move went “really quite smoothly,” says Craig Olson, president, Fresh Start Bakeries. “At the end of the day, our suppliers did a marvelous job of testing the equipment and being available to [address] any start up jitters.”
From the old City of Industry plant, Fresh Start kept a couple of stainless steel tanks, as well as its English muffin line that is being virtually rebuilt as it transitions to the new plant. “I wish I could pick it up and move it in one piece. Seeing it in pieces scares me a little,” says Bob Mitchell, Fresh Start’s Ontario plant manager.
The new plant began production around Sept. 1, with the exception of the English muffin line, which is still in the process of being moved and will be fully operational in the new plant by mid-October. “The English muffin line is the most efficient line I’ve seen. It does a perfect job to McDonald’s specs with low rejects and perfect symmetry in the product,” Mitchell adds.
The bun lines now are running two shifts per day. “There’s been a lot of people working lots of hours trying to prepare for this transition,” Olson says. “I’m very proud of our team for the commitment to quality that this time and effort represents. It really makes a difference at the end of the day in how smooth the start up is and how much that start up costs. I would put the start up against some of the best in our industry in terms of being a smooth transition with very little wasted production hours and very little wasted product. The investment of time and effort of our team has truly paid off.”
While the City of Industry plant served the company well for many years, Fresh Start’s management felt the company needed a larger plant to accommodate today’s technology and chose Ontario as the site for its new plant.
Fresh Start’s bakery design and execution of projects makes the company especially innovative, says Robert Miller, director of operations, Baking Technology Systems Inc., Tucker, Ga. “They are very strong in planning and then very strong in the execution of projects and installation of the plan,” Miller adds. Bake-Tech began working with Fresh Start Bakeries 18 years ago and continues today, equipping the Ontario plant with conveyerized proofers, ovens and edge pan coolers. “It’s a system we’ve been manufacturing for 19 years,” Miller says. “The conveyerized system itself has been around since 1967, and the design allows for a continuous flow of product through the manufacturing process, throughout the makeup to the proofing to the baking, through cooling and down to packaging,” he adds. Bake-Tech conveyerized the proofing and baking portions of the new Fresh Start line.
The various layers of management also make the company stand out from other wholesale bakeries, Miller says. From the bakery’s president, Craig Olson, to Mike Ward, vice president and chief manufacturing officer who oversees production, to Clyde Kawamoto, vice president and director of engineering, the team functions well and pulls projects together and implements them in a timely manner, Miller adds.
“Beyond those levels of management, they also are very strong in their individual plant operations on engineering. Qualified people are doing the maintenance, and they follow-up on the jobs after installation.”
Fresh Start also is recognized for its dedication to a high quality product.
“Quality is of their highest priority,” says Wally Mullvain, regional manager, The Peerless Group, Sydney, Ohio. “From what I’ve seen and compared to other plants, they buy the best equipment that will do the job for them and give them the best quality.”
In addition, he says the new plant’s layout is quite streamlined. “From mixing all the way to packaging, it’s a very sensible and logical flow the way they place their equipment.”
Peerless has worked with Fresh Start for close to two decades and provided two HS20 Frozen Dough ACBM mixers to the Ontario plant, one for each line. In addition, Peerless also worked on the integration of AMF pumps to its mixers, Mullvain adds.
For Olson, the reason for Fresh Start’s innovation all boils down to people. “We try to create a mindset within our team for innovation,” he says. “We certainly have found that being on the leading edge of technology in our manufacturing space is a competitive advantage,” he adds.
Olson also notes that the bakery stands out from its competition because of its quality and service, which results from the people involved with the company and the company’s culture. “We have a culture of excellence and a culture of exceeding customers expectations. And, we have one level of quality that represents Fresh Start Bakeries.”
The new totally automated Ontario plant is set to continue that level of quality thanks to its superior throughput.
“[Fresh Start has] made probably the largest bun production line in the world as far as speed. That’s innovation,” says Larry Gore, director of marketing, AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, Va. “Fresh Start has the capability in one plant of producing some of the highest outputs on bun production, and they do it in two lines,” he adds. While older plants might have three or four smaller lines, Fresh Start produces at high speeds on just two lines, which is “innovation from the standpoint of production efficiency,” Gore says.
“They want to have proven technology, but they want to have cutting edge technology on all of their new lines to make sure they have the highest bun and product quality.”
AMF has worked with Fresh Start for more than 30 years and partnered with them for the Ontario plant as well. Fresh Start’s two Accupan 800 high-speed bun systems from AMF feature eight-across configuration. The line offers two eight-across makeup lines.
“Most of your high-speed bun lines in the United States have one across, Fresh Start has twice that much,” Gore says. “What you’re looking at is the capability of close to running over 100,000 buns per hour on those two lines combined. Running those at the highest speed, would give you about 1,000 buns per minute per line, which would give you about 120,000 buns per hour capability on these innovative lines,” he adds.
The high-speed bun systems include a high-speed bun divider, rounding system, an intermediate proofing system, and a high speed sheeter moulder panner system with magnetic pan indexing.
“The Ontario plant is using a new plant design that means they have one continuous open floor layout, which makes it a very efficient plant,” Gore adds. “Their production per square footage is very high.”
As configuration of the new plant began, Fresh Start focused on noise reduction, working with equipment manufacturers to keep bakery machine noise to a minimum in the new plant. Bake-Tech worked to control the sound of its noisier equipment, such as blowers, by taking extra care with how the machinery was placed within the new plant, Miller says. The company also concentrated on reducing the noise of the pan conveyors and making the handling of the pan as smooth as possible. Orders for machinery were placed last November and start-up began in the middle of August, Miller adds.
“We worked with all of our suppliers with respect to noise control,” Olson notes. “We operate globally. In Europe, noise is more highly regulated than it is in the United States. We’re using that criteria when we do business, mostly to protect our employees from the effects of long term high decibel environments. All of our suppliers that we deal with on a regular basis have worked with us quite closely to control noise on all pieces of equipment,” he adds.
Overall, manufacturers helped Fresh Start build more flexibility into the Ontario plant with packaging configurations and product lines, Olson says. He adds that Fresh Start feels it has built in more flexibility in this plant than it had at its previous City of Industry location.
Because the Ontario plant is completely automated, much of the formula management is communicated through the mixers and controlled by the batch control system. Peerless worked on programming and software protection to accommodate this, Mullvain adds.
Room to grow
The bakery is currently using all but about 35,000 sq. ft. of its 189,000-sq.-ft. space. This allows room for expansion when the opportunity presents itself, Olson says.
“We intend to broaden our customer base with the greater capacity we’ve created with this plant,” he adds.
Including its joint ventures, Fresh Start’s 27 plants span nine countries and four continents. Olson says the plant in Germany is the second largest plant next to the Ontario plant and features a throughput of about 1,400 buns per minute by two lines, compared to the Ontario plant’s 2,000. Most of Fresh Start’s plants have a standard plant capacity of 750 pieces, Bake-Tech’s Miller says.
With the new Ontario plant, the company has increased to 1,000 pieces per minute per line based on 4-in. hamburger buns, a 60-minute proof time and a nine and a half minute bake, Miller adds. Another consideration, pan cooling, requires only seven to eight minutes.
“The bun cooler discharge reminds me of the freeways around here (Los Angeles). We have the I-10 West and the 60 West going into the 57 exchange. Instead of cars, they’re buns,” Mitchell says.
Fresh Start, however, manages to avoid the traffic jams of the freeways. More importantly, through organized project management and innovative engineering, the largest bun manufacturing plant in the world maintains the highest quality standards. Congratulations to Fresh Start Bakeries, Baking Management’s 2007 Capital Investment of the Year.