Upper Crust Ltd. is in a unique position for a bakery of its size. It is much smaller than national bakeries with vast plant networks that stretch throughout North America, but it is much larger than traditional intermediate size bakeries that typically focus on one product category. This Toronto-based bakery resides in the gray area of bakery classifications.
Upper Crust operates two bakeries that are just miles apart in distance, but universes apart in terms of bakery production. The company’s main plant and headquarters produces laminated dough products and the company’s second bakery manufactures a variety of bread and roll products.
Upper Crust Ltd. was founded to supply a local retail store with bakery foods. The company’s executives quickly realized that their dreams were bigger than what the retail store could support, and they started developing a market for frozen laminated dough.
|Upper Crust’s laminated dough line creates 20-lb. blocks of dough that are retarded overnight.|
“The frozen business developed quickly for us,” Otto Shtapler, Upper Crust’s founder says. “With frozen bakery foods, our customers do not have to be master bakers to serve quality products.”
Since its founding, Upper Crust has positioned itself as a baker of quality, artisan products. This market stance brings large dividends for the company today as changing consumer trends place an emphasis on quality. “Baby boomers are asking for a better quality product, and we are seeing more and more artisan products entering the market,” Shtapler says.
This trend bodes well for Upper Crust, which places a strong emphasis on quality products and quality assurance. The company also strives for natural and more healthful production and formulation methods. The company’s products are free of trans fats and additives.
Upper Crust’s main plant and headquarters consists of a 50,000-sq.-ft. production space that houses laminated dough-processing equipment. The plant’s initial layout was designed to support laminated dough production, but growing demand for bread products spurred the company to expand its product line and processing equipment. Adding bread production equipment to the facility proved a major task for the company.
The company produces pre-proofed laminated dough products, allowing end users to move the products directly from the freezer to the oven. This type of production requires a temperature-controlled environment, which does not mix well with large bread ovens. As bread demand increased, the company decided to build a separate bread plant instead of trying to produce the two different product lines out of the same plant.
|After sheeting, products are formed on one of two lines. The two lines rest on rollers and guide rails that allow for easy changeovers.|
By separating bread and laminated dough production into two dedicated plants, the company improved quality control and assurance, and also improved the potential to grow business in the two categories.
The two plants operate independently and provide a great study of two vastly different baking philosophies. Simply put, the bread plant is built for speed and efficiency and the laminated dough plant is designed for extreme flexibility.
Laminated dough production
To an outsider, controlled chaos would be apt words to describe the production floor at Upper Crust’s laminated dough plant. From the front of the line to the packaging department, it is difficult to trace a product’s journey through the various production systems. And although the plant’s production appears disorganized, in actuality, it is a tightly controlled process designed to maximize flexibility and quality.
The key to quality, the company says, is control. The plant’s environment is closely monitored and controlled. The temperature always hovers around 60˚F, which the company says eliminates many human errors.
The production process starts with two 20-ton indoor flour silos that store strong and soft flour. The company blends the two types of flour to offset strong Canadian flour that contains high levels of protein.
The company’s automated mixing system features four spiral mixers that automatically mix and dump dough onto an automated dough trough system that feeds the laminating line. The company operates a standard laminating line complete with various reducing and laminating stages. The company uses a variety of roll-ins, both straight and blended.
The laminated dough line creates 20-lb. blocks of dough that are retarded overnight for the next day’s production. Since day one, the company decided to go the extra mile for quality and retard every batch of laminated dough. Retarding the dough not only improves flavor, but it also improves machineability and allows the fat and dough to become the same temperature.
|An automated line takes 20-lb. dough blocks and forms them into a continuous sheet. The dough sheet is cut into triangular shapes and a filling, such as cheese, is deposited.|
After retarding overnight, blocks of dough are sheeted and made up on one of many makeup lines. The company employs a variety of automated machines, but still uses a significant amount of manual labor to maintain flexibility and to produce an ever-growing product lineup. The company’s three main lines produce Danish, twisted pastries, filled pastries and croissants.
The company’s most flexible line produces two very distinct products: Danish and twisted pastries. At the front end of the line, blocks of dough are formed into a continuous sheet and reduced to the required sizes. After sheeting, products are formed on one of two lines. The two lines rest on rollers and guide rails that allow for easy changeovers. The lines simply are rolled in or out of the production flow in a matter of minutes. Upper Crust estimates that this flexibility measure saved the company as much as $300,000 in additional equipment costs.
The company produces filled pastry products on an automated line that takes the 20-lb. dough blocks and forms them into a continuous sheet. Next, the dough sheet is cut into triangular shapes and a filling, such as cheese, is deposited. Products are then shaped, placed on paper and sent to the proofer. Croissant production takes place on a standard automated croissant line.
All of the company’s products are proofed and then sent frozen to supply customers with an easy-to-use freezer to oven product. The company operates five packaging lines on a mezzanine overlooking the production floor.
Besides its three main makeup lines, the company operates multiple small labor intensive lines. These lines help the company maintain flexibility and produce a comprehensive line of laminated dough products.
|After fillings are deposited into the dough sheet, products are shaped, placed on paper and sent to the proofer.|
Upper Crust’s 100,000-sq.-ft. bread plant, built in 2001, offers a stark contrast to the laminated dough production plant. Whereas the laminated dough plant presents a maze of production equipment, the bread plant is streamlined into four bread lines that run straight and long. “Nothing ever crosses on the production floor,” says Edward Roeder, Upper Crust’s vice president of operations. “The lines are completely dedicated. They start at the front and go straight to the back.”
The streamlined plant houses four lines, all featuring state-of-the-art production systems that manufacture quality artisan breads and rolls. The company stores its flour in four 22-ton flour silos and ensures the quality of its products by making its own sourdoughs with an automated system. The system yields as many as 8,000 kilograms of sourdough in 16 hours. The system’s six tanks allow the company to develop as many as six different types of sourdough.
After sours are created, they are automatically transferred to the company’s mixers. Upper Crust recently installed two new spiral mixers that not only reduce mix time by about 30%, but also increase the quality of the dough. Upper Crust’s bread plant contains four automated lines: three stress-free bread lines and a traditional line for foodservice buns and rolls.
These lines are straight and dedicated, unlike the pastry plant, which operates in a maze-like structure. However, despite the two plants’ differences, Upper Crust operates them with the same dedication to quality. This key factor has enabled the company to succeed in two different product categories.