Built for organic growth

by Dan Malovany
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When it comes to information systems and continuous improvement, Rudi’s Organic Bakery relies on its people, according to Hanno Holm, COO. In fact, the bakery encourages employees, and not just supervisors, to suggest ways to make equipment safer and more efficient as well as on how to reduce downtime, eliminate waste, improve fulfillment of orders and enhance food safety. That’s why it shares performance information with its crew.

“The people out there who run everything know everything about how the equipment works and how to make it better,” said Mr. Holm, who joined Rudi’s two years ago to install ­total quality management processes. “We don’t have a top-to-bottom management style. We are a bottom-up one, where employees make suggestions.”

In the organic side of the Boulder, CO, facility, the operation has become increasingly automated over the years as the company found ways to streamline production without compromising on quality.

Production in the organic bakery runs five days a week. The plant houses two organic bread lines and one bun line, which was recently upgraded to increase capacity and improve product quality.

Flour is stored in two KB Systems 50,000-lb silos inside the bakery. One silo holds whole wheat flour, while the other houses white. Whole wheat, Mr. Holm said, recently surpassed white flour in terms of consumption. All minor and micro ingredients are prescaled and placed in containers per batch as a part of the bakery’s traceability program.

Bread production uses a sponge-and-dough process with a 12-hour fermentation and retarding process for its levain. Two WP 800-lb spiral mixers feed each bread line. The main bread line has a Baker Perkins six-pocket divider that makes about 52 cuts per minute. The dough pieces travel through a Kemper intermediate proofer for four minutes before entering a Glimek bread moulder. Here they encounter a pre-pressure board before receiving flour dusting and traveling under a final pressure board and into a four-strap pan. A Burford seeder applies toppings as needed.

After racking off, the pans are rolled into a 90-rack proof box for about an hour and baked in one of 11 Revent ­double-rack ovens for 26 to 37 minutes, depending on the variety of bread. Mr. Holm noted the loaves come out of the oven with a 203°F internal temperature. “It never reaches 212°F because of the altitude here,” he said.

The loaves then travel along a Capway ceiling conveyor for 90 minutes that reduces the internal temperature of the bread to 100°F and through a Fortress metal detector and to a UBE band slicer, a Formost bagger and a Kwik Lok closure.

For local delivery on the bakery’s 18 routes, the loaves are hand-loaded into baskets. Nationally distributed products are placed into cartons, palletized and frozen.

Overall, the bakery produces 45 different types of organic products, and there is room to grow. “Everything in this process is designed to produce the bread as ­efficiently as possible,” Mr. Holm said.
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