Gold Standard Baking purchased its automated laminated dough line ahead of its projected growth and investment plan timeline. The line was purchased in year two, but the company hoped to have it by year five.
Gold Standard Baking relies on manual labor in the back end of its laminated dough line.
After Gold Standard Baking installed its automated laminated dough line, croissant production increased from 400,000 croissants a week to 4 million croissants a week.
Another recent investment was Gold Standard's automatic depanning system. The company also purchased a pan return system.
Included in Gold Standard's investment plan was a pillow-pack packaging system.
When the Caparos family acquired Gold Standard Baking in July 2002, they formed a comprehensive 10-year plan for growth and future capital investments. In its goals, the Chicago-based bakery wanted to invest in an automated laminated dough line that would give the bakery the flexibility to produce a wide variety of quality croissant products by its fifth year. By year 10, the company wanted to install a new oven and proofer, and completely automate its production system.
However, growth, ambition and fearless determination toward constant improvement significantly accelerated the bakery's plans. "We reached our five year plan in our second year," Yianny Caparos, Gold Standard Baking's president says. "We reached our 10-year plan in less than four years."
Yianny is one of three family members guiding Gold Standard Baking. Yianny's brother George serves as vice president, and Constantin, Yianny and George's father, is general manager.
The Caparos family acquired Gold Standard Baking from East Balt Commissary in 2002, and has invested heavily in automating and improving the bakery's production process. The company's first major investment was an automated laminated dough line from Rademaker, which replaced a semi-automated older line.
"After we bought the laminated dough line, business started growing the way we anticipated it," Yianny says. "We immediately knew we had to upgrade the rest of the facility, which meant eliminating every area where manual labor could jeopardize the quality of the product."
The addition of an automated laminated dough line improved the company's quality and capacity. Unfortunately, the addition also created a massive bottleneck at the proofer and shined a spotlight on the deficiencies of the back end of the bakery's production line.
Gold Standard Baking resolved these deficiencies by revamping its entire process with new equipment, processes and technologies. This investment cost $5 million, a sizable commitment for an intermediate-size bakery, especially considering the size of the company's initial investments to purchase the bakery and the laminated dough line.
Investing in the future
Investing in the latest automated equipment is a core tenet at Gold Standard Baking. The company always is looking at new equipment and processes that will make the bakery more automated, faster and more efficient, Yianny says. Even more important is the quest to maintain quality.
"Every day I think about how I can maintain a competitive advantage and still be a low-cost producer," Yianny says. "Most of the time, the answer is automation."
The company's latest investment to automate the back-end of its line significantly increases capacity, efficiency and quality. The bakery's goal from the start of the project is to eliminate all manual labor and human handling of products. This is an ambitious goal considering that the company relied heavily on manual labor after the makeup department.
Before automating the back-end of the line, automated production halted after croissants passed through the makeup line. Employees pulled pans of product off the makeup line, placed them on baking racks and transported the racks to a roll-in proof box. After proofing, employees rolled the racks out and manually placed the racks on the front end of a tunnel oven. After baking, employees again racked the pans and allowed them to cool. Once cooling was complete, products were manually depanned and packaged.
Today, all of these steps have been eliminated and replaced with automated processes that improve quality, reduce the company's labor by 20% and increase output from 400,000 croissants a week to 4 million croissants a week.
Gold Standard Baking employed Dunbar Systems to serve as project manager for the capital investment project. "For a company our size, we don't have a corporate engineering department and our chief engineer is consumed with the day-to-day operations of the plant," Yianny says. "It was extremely important to have a project manager that acted as an extension to our engineering department."
The project's first major challenge was coordinating installation without significantly hampering production. This was accomplished through a combination of increasing frozen inventory and working on weekends, when the plant sat idle.
During the first phase of the installation, the company installed conveying systems from Benda Manufacturing Inc., and an I.J. White Spiral cooler.
The company installed a serpentine proofer that rests on stilts above the oven. Since installation, the automated proofer greatly has increased capacity and efficiency. "Our proof times went from 120 minutes to 80 minutes because we have complete control over the environment," Yianny says.
The 130-ft. proofer also improves quality through its stabilized tray design. Pans are transported directly onto stabilized tray holders, which prevent the pans from swinging or moving as they pass through the proofer.
After the overhead proofer was built, the company installed a 100-ft. tunnel oven under the proofer. The new tunnel oven provides countless efficiencies and quality improvements compared to the old oven, mainly a reduction in bake time from 17 minutes to 12 minutes.
The new oven's mesh belt accounts for most of the reduced bake time. The company used to bake with a direct-fired oven that applied bottom heat to a steel hearth plate. The new oven features bottom and top burners, and the mesh belt allows hot air to be circulated around the pan and the product. The new oven also is PLC-controlled, allowing the company to control temperatures in each oven zone. After the proofer and oven were installed, the company ran a series of manual tests to ensure ideal performance before bringing the new systems online.
Besides proofing and baking, Gold Standard Baking also purchased automatic depanning equipment, a pan return system, a basket washer and a pillow-pack packaging system.
In their short tenure as owners of Gold Standard Baking, the Caparos family has invested millions of dollars in equipment and process upgrades. Most recently, the company spent almost $500,000 on a custom-designed piece of equipment to fill croissants. "Traditional filled croissants look like rectangles with slits in them," Yianny says. "Our new equipment allows us to produce filled croissants in a croissant shape where you can see the filling from tip to tip."
The company also has set in motion its latest capital investment project. The company recently doubled its plant size by acquiring 65,000 sq. ft. of space in the building the bakery occupies. A second complete production line is expected to be installed in the new space by June 2007.