The executives at Hill & Valley Premium Bakery, Rock Island, Ill., took a unique tack when they began looking to maximize production space more than 10 years ago.
That’s when the bakery, which makes sugar-free cookies, cakes, brownies, pies and muffins, turned to lean manufacturing principles, says Jim Graham, part of Hill & Valley’s research and development team.
The practice of lean production–borrowed mainly from principles first enacted at Toyota–looks to eliminate all manner of waste from the production process. Waste includes everything from wasted movement to actual manufacturing by-products, says Salvatore Ganino, president of manufacturing consulting firm Manufacturing ETC. Manufacturers often call in consultants like Ganino to help them go lean.
At Hill & Valley, the key to lean, Graham says, is in the measuring. “With the help of an outside consulting team, we began to measure almost everything,” he says. “Once we began measuring, we were able to implement a more disciplined approach to continuous improvement throughout the plant.”
The baker also turned to cellular manufacturing practices–also a lean principle–to help reduce production process footprints and open up space, Graham says.
Cellular manufacturing practices physically place one process next to the following process to minimize wasted time, motion and travel, Ganino says. He likens the practice to a special-purpose factory within a bigger factory. It dedicates equipment and machinery to a particular product or family of products and groups them into a cell.
“No matter how many individual operations are within the cell, product moves only when the last operation completes its task,” Ganino says. “Thus there is a flow of one piece at a time with no work-in-process inventory between operations.”
At Hill & Valley, mixing, baking and packaging processes are more closely stationed together now, Graham says. That makes for reduced tray-handling times and reduced work in process.
As part of its lean initiative, Hill & Valley also implemented just-in-time delivery to free up building space, and now sends operators to make freezer pick-ups more often than in the past. This also increases freezer space.
“Reducing inventories increases space, reduces damage and makes our turns faster and our products fresher,” Graham says.
The company also recently overhauled and updated its equipment to improve production efficiencies and quality, he adds.
“This year, we installed additional flour delivery systems that deliver flour to all mixing areas,” he says. “Also, we’re shifting to bulk bag-and-tote systems for the highest volume of ingredients to eliminate a lot of ingredient bag handling, disposal and dust creation.”
All these moves have resulted in more space for manufacturing with less handling and delay time than in the past, Graham adds.
Don’t forget to turn to the equipment makers themselves when looking to better bakery efficiency. They can help determine best equipment layout and can recommend custom or specialized products that can help save space, says Terry Benda, president of product-handling-system maker Benda Manufacturing, Tinley Park, Ill.
Benda’s company recently helped a baker that was challenged with adding another line in a bakery that was, in Benda’s words, “already pretty tight.”
“They wanted to insert a new baking line between existing lines, but there wasn’t enough floor space available to convey pans from one end to another,” Benda says.
In response, the supplier developed a machine that acts as an elevator to move the pans up to make use of the airspace above the line, he says. Benda Manufacturing now sells this servo-driven pan elevator commercially.
“Nobody has enough floor space, and everyone is concerned about every penny,” Benda says. “The key for bakers is being open minded when they first look at a project and understand floor space is an issue, then not being afraid to come up with something innovative.”
Also, equipment manufacturers make combination lines that run two or more products and use a relatively small footprint, says Merle Cooper, Midwest regional sales manager for Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group, Auburn, Wash.
Belshaw Adamatic, for example, makes a combination line that can produce one-pound bread loaves, Kaiser rolls and round rolls that can be constructed within a 12-ft. by 14-ft. space. The equipment maker also recently released a one-person bread and roll makeup system for in-store bakeries that also can be used in manufacturing areas, Cooper says.
The system is 13 ft. wide by 6 ft. deep and allows one operator to do everything from mixing to panning the dough. Cooper also recommends bakers consider positioning all machines–including conveyors and production lines–in a U-shape.
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Think mobile, think height, and think about extending out the back.
That’s the advice Karen Trilevsky, C.E.O. of Baking Management’s Innovative Bakery of the Year, FullBloom Baking Company of Newark, Calif., has for wholesale bakers.
“Early on, our strategy was to keep things mobile,” Trilevsky says. “We bolted as few things as possible down and kept the large equipment like the ovens and the refrigerators to the perimeter because those can’t be moved.”
The mobility meant that conveyors could be quickly moved and shifted during changeover from one product line to another or when baking a smaller batch of products.
“So, if we were running cookies, we’d organized our line one way, and then when we shifted over to morning buns we’d pull the equipment we needed into place and then move tables to the sides, and we could really keep things going without losing speed,” she says.
This mobile strategy served FullBloom well in its 20,000-sq.-ft. facility and continues to pay off even as the bakery has grown into its current 95,000-sq.-ft. location. The innovation in managing its space effectively played a part in Baking Management’s selection of the company as its Innovative Bakery of the Year. The efficiencies gained on the line provide cost savings that allow FullBloom to use super-premium ingredients and still sell product at a competitive price point. It also helps the company afford many of its sustainable, social and employee programs.
Along the way, Trilevsky and her crew have learned other ways to maximize their facility’s floor space. For instance, she always looks for equipment that can accomplish more than one task.
“We have a depositor that, by changing out pistons, can change from a single deposit to multi deposits. So you can change from small muffins or cupcakes to loaves or coffee cakes,” Trilevsky says.
Also, some proofing equipment can also act as a retarder for proofing. And a blast chiller can always double as a refrigerator.
“It blast chills some things and refrigerates others,” she says. “Similar functions but different uses.”
She also recommends bakers look up when seeking space. By making use of a second floor or a mezzanine within the manufacturing space–even if not strictly used for manufacturing purposes–bakers can increase the footprint of their space without expanding outward.
“You could run a maintenance shop up there if you need one, but you don’t want it to take up floor space,” Trilevsky says.
Her own facility operates its packing lines on a second-floor mezzanine. A spiral conveyor moves the baked goods up, but other bakeries might choose to forklift products to an upper floor.
“Most of the buildings used as bakeries are pretty tall, so you could even include storage for pans and stuff you’re not using this month up there, and you can forklift it up,” she says. “Every little bit helps.”
In keeping with that mindset, FullBloom expanded its footprint by extending its roofline, much as you’d attach a carport to your home. The sides are protected from the weather with simple walls. The bakery relocated its dumpsters and trash compactor under the extended roof and also uses the space to load and unload trucks.
“We had been taking interior space to organize our loads, so when we extended out that way, the interior space could be used for something else,” she says.
Trilevsky cautions wholesale bakers that even after making all the equipment, plant and production changes possible, they’ll likely still be thinking about how to maximize their line and plant space.
“After all,” she says, “we now have 95,000 square feet and it’s still not enough space. You’ll never have enough. The quest for more space never ends.”