Bäckerhaus Veit's no-stress makeup line automates artisan bread production.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HAL ROTH
Four spiral mixers handle the company's dough production.
A Bäckerhaus Veit employee inspects products as they exit the no-stress makeup line.
Employees hand score products to maintain an artisan appearance.
Bäckerhaus Veit freezes all of its products before distribution. The bakery's small products, such as bread sticks, are frozen in a 37-ft. tunnel freezer.
Until recently, Bäckkerhaus Veit went to great lengths to freeze, store and ship its products. The Woodbridge, Ontariobased artisan bread bakery outsourced a portion of its freezer storage to a company that picked up and stored pallets in a freezer warehouse. When the products were ready for shipping, the freezer storage company shipped the pallets directly to customers or back to Bäckerhaus Veit. When all was said and done, some of the bakery's products-went through quite the journey to get to the end user: three truck trips and a significant amount of logistical planning and manpower to ensure this process went smoothly.
"It's a hassle to deal with an outside freezer company every day," Tobias Donath, Bäckerhaus Veit's business development manager, says. "And if they (freezing company) couldn't get something done, it is our reputation on the line."
Bäckerhaus Veit does not have to worry about damaging its reputation anymore. In June, the company completed a 20,000-sq.-ft. expansion to its 32,000-sq.-ft. bakery. This increase is primarily consumed by a storage freezer that enables the company to bring its freezer storage in-house. "With all of the outsourcing and inventory management, we were looking at good months and bad months," Sabine Veit, Bäckerhaus Veit's president and chief executive officer, says. "We knew we had to do it."
Before approving the expansion project, Sabine Veit and her team of executives analyzed the costs and benefits of the expansion for almost a year. In the end, the control that the freezer provided Bäckerhaus Veit was too good to pass up. "The ability to store everything on our own will make a huge difference for the bakery in terms of quality assurance, process control and customer service," Donath says.
The 14,000-sq.-ft. storage freezer holds more than 1,000 pallets in two freezing rooms. Before the expansion, the company had 1,500 sq. ft. of freezing space onsite, and used an outside company to store its pallets.
In addition to the storage freezer, the new expansion also includes temperature controlled shipping docks. All of these measures provide Bäckerhaus Veit with more control of its inventory and improved customer service and quality assurance. These are areas the bakery has sought to perfect since its start in 1987.
Sabine Veit founded Bäckerhaus Veit, which means "Veit house of fine bakers," in Toronto in 1987. However, the bakery's roots date back to 1927 when the Veit family started a small bakery in Stuttgart, Germany. This German bakery has flourished and now consists of more than 80 retail locations and a central bakery.
Sabine Veit brought her family's long history of bread baking to North America and opened Bäckerhaus Veit in an 8,000-sq.-ft. facility that was a commissary for a chain of seven retail stores. After toiling in the retail store business for five years, Sabine Veit changed courses and entered the wholesale business. "It was very clear that I didn't want to deal with the hassles of a growing retail business," Sabine Veit says. "The training of employees as bakers was not there, and I also wanted to get away from the fresh side of the business."
She exited the retail bakery business and moved into a 32,000-sq.-ft. facility in the early 1990s and formulated a plan to go after the in-store bakery and foodservice segments with a line of par-baked artisan breads and rolls. This plan succeeded, and today the company has a solid business supplying these market segments in Canada and the United States.
Bäckerhaus Veit's distribution is split evenly between the United States and Canada. In the United States, the majority of the bakery's products are sold to in-store bakeries with growth coming from in-store delis and the foodservice market. The company's U.S. distribution reaches customers nationwide. In Canada, the bakery ships to in-store bakeries and various foodservice channels.
In less than 20 years, Bäckerhaus Veit has become a formidable player in the artisan bread industry by thinking and functioning like a large bakery. "My father taught me to dream big when he told me he wasn't going to buy me a job or a future," Sabine Veit says.
Thinking big spurred the company to take freezer storage into its own hands, despite the costs of expanding its facility. Thinking big also led to the company's broad reach in the United States and Canada. And most importantly, thinking big helped Bäckerhaus Veit establish a production system that uses the latest technological advancements in artisan bread makeup and computer technology.
Bäckerhaus Veit produces an extensive range of artisan products, including breads, flat breads, rolls, pretzels and baguettes. The company's main selling point is quality, and the bakery goes to great lengths to ensure that this principle is achieved throughout the production floor. "The challenge we have is making bread that is traditionally made by hand on the equipment we have here," Sabine Veit says.
The company stores its flour in an exterior silo that holds 147,000 lbs. of flour. During a 12-hour shift, the company uses 15,000 lbs. of flour. Flour and chilled water is conveyed to one of four spiral mixers through a bulk ingredient handling system. Minor ingredients are batched manually and added to the mixers by hand.
The company manually inspects some of its ingredients, such as rosemary, cherries and olives, to ensure that pits and other foreign materials are removed. Although these products are inspected and depitted by the ingredient supplier, Donath says the second inspection provides the bakery with an additional quality assurance checkpoint.
Besides raw ingredients, the company adds sourdough to each batch. The company makes its own sourdoughs and refreshes them daily. They are stored in a cooler for eight to 16 hours at temperatures ranging from 50°F to 52°F. After mixing, doughs ferment on resting tables for one to three hours, depending on the product.
The company produces the majority of its products on two automated makeup lines. The company's stressfree makeup line is the workhorse of the bakery, producing everything from ciabatta to sliced breads. The stressfree line allows the company to produce fermented breads with an open, airy structure, Donath says.
The company employs a traditional bread line to manufacture its more dense products, such as ovals. The company also handcrafts certain breads.
The company racks all of its products after makeup and proofs them in roll-in proofers. The bakery easily adjusts the temperature and humidity of the proofers, which provide the company with flexibility to run multiple products on one shift. A system of rack and deck ovens handle the bakery's baking function.
Bäckerhaus Veit freezes all of its products before they leave the plant. Freezing is done in either a tunnel freezer or shock tunnels. The 37-ft. tunnel freezer handles the company's buns and other small products. For breads, the company uses roll-in shock tunnels. After the initial freeze, products are transferred to the company's new freezer warehouse.
Data collection and control
Bäckerhaus Veit's new freezer warehouse aligns the company with much larger bakeries that easily fund and manage the frozen storage function. The company recently leveled the playing field even more by implementing a comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software system that links mountains of data from every aspect of the business. This ERP system allows the company to maintain its quality while it grows into a large, more automated bakery.
"As we expand in terms of production, we need the infrastructure to keep tabs on quality," Farhad Pochkhanawala, Bäckerhaus Veit's chief financial officer, says. "When we were running at a smaller scale, it was easy to physically go out on the plant floor and look at each loaf, but now we have to rely on more scientific ways to ensure that our quality does not suffer."
Installing an ERP system is a major undertaking for large commercial bakeries with vast resources, let alone an intermediate-sized bakery with limited resources. The company went through a lengthy investigation period to ensure that it installed the ideal system for its operation. Throughout this process, the bakery's executive team researched and interviewed potential vendors, sent out requests for proposals, and conducted product demonstrations and evaluations.
In the end, the executives chose a system from 3i Infotech that integrates recipe management, production scheduling, lot tracking, sales and forecasting information. Bäckerhaus Veit chose this vendor, Sabine Veit says, due to its ability to offer a customized solution designed specifically for the bakery.
To ease the implementation process, Bäckerhaus Veit divided the installation process into two phases. Phase I encompassed all functions outside of production, including accounting, sales, management, inventory and finance. Phase II, which still is being fine-tuned, covers the entire production process.
"What we are doing is capturing data on the production floor," Arun George, Bäckerhaus Veit's controller, says. "Before, we had all of these satellite systems floating around. We had multiple data sources for costing, product formulation and planning. It was getting to be too much to handle and we needed to bring all of the data together."
For a bakery built on the principles of flexibility and quality, the ERP system will revolutionize the way Bäckerhaus Veit goes to market. "For our company, a quick reaction time is vital," Sabine Veit says. "If I know every week where all of the numbers are tracking, from production efficiencies to raw material purchasing to inventory, then I'm going to have a better handle on the business."
Bäckerhaus Veit's big thinking allowed the company to expand its capabilities with a 14,000-sq.-ft. freezer and implement a comprehensive ERP system. And this big thinking does not stop there. The company is capitalizing on demand for whole and multi grain artisan breads by launching the Bäckerhaus Veit brand. The company also is expanding its sliced bread capabilities. These multi grain products are sold through foodservice channels for use as sandwich breads.
The company also is thinking big in terms of its production floor. The company recently purchased an automated bun line to introduce premium artisan rolls to the marketplace.
Bäckerhaus Veit's past actions and future plans signify a major turning point in the young company's life. By continuing to think like larger bakeries, Bäckerhaus Veit is positioned to reap the benefits of the growing demand for artisan bread products. •