Scaled for the Future

by Laurie Gorton
Share This:
Businesses can’t move ahead by clinging to the past, especially in categories as competitive as wholesale baking. With an eye toward the industry’s emerging global structure, Canada Bread executives looked at the company’s fresh bakery operations in the country’s most populous province and found them lacking. It was time to take the initiative, to take aim at higher goals.

On Sept. 28, the company celebrated the grand opening of a high-tech bakery at Hamilton, ON. Now operating two of nine planned lines, the facility embodies the hopes and future of Etobicoke, ON-based Canada Bread Co., Ltd.

“We invested more than CA$100 million in this new bakery to support long-term growth as the leading producer of value-added bakery products in Canada,” said Michael McCain, president and CEO, Maple Leaf Foods, Toronto, ON, and chairman, Canada Bread.

While planning the new bakery, the company sought scale and efficiency. “We invested in technology. We invested in scale. We invested in productivity,” Mr. McCain said. “We expect that will allow us to ensure our competitiveness for many, many years to come, but we left space in this facility for innovation and growth as well.”

Current plans call for further capacity to make English muffins, tortillas and rye bread. In addition to lines that more than replace the output at bakeries that it’s closing in the region, Canada Bread built in about 50,000 sq ft and infrastructure to address coming needs. “We have some footprint for unidentified new product activity because innovation and growth in our product line are important to our future as well,” Mr. McCain noted. (For video of the new plant, see Pages 19, 22 and 24 of the digital edition.)

THE NUMBERS.

By any measure, the Hamilton facility is huge, making it Canada’s largest bakery and bigger than most in the NAFTA trade zone. The 385,000-sq-ft building sits on 25 acres, and when all nine lines are up and running, it will employ 330.

The bakery’s eight flour silos, three currently in operation, can hold 140,000 lb each. When the plant goes to three shifts, it will output nearly a quarter-million loaves a day.

“When building a new facility and consolidating factories, it makes sense to take advantage of scale,” said Walter Miller, senior vice-president, operations, Canada Bread.

The Hamilton bakery replaces three of the company’s five Ontario plants. These older facilities averaged 70,000 sq ft in size and more than 50 years in age. Some 130 employees from those plants are transferring to the new site. The company plans a stepwise shutdown of the other bakeries, with one to be closed by year’s end and the others in 2012 and 2013.

The company will accept some overlap in production capacity during the transition period. “In some cases, this involves reasonably significant cost,” Mr. Miller observed. “But it is absolutely critical for us that we are able to ensure continuity of service to our customers.”

Hamilton proceeded swiftly. After planning and designing the operation over the course of three years, Canada Bread formally announced the decision to build the new bakery in January 2010. The company broke ground in July of that year, and construction started the next month. “And here we are, just over a year later, with the official opening and product coming out of the facility,” Mr. McCain said. “It took a huge team effort from people all across our organization.”

KEYS TO EFFICIENCY.

A number of factors enhance the Hamilton bakery’s efficiency and competitiveness. The decision to seek certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System yielded not only sustainability benefits but also cost savings. By locating the bakery in Canada’s ninth largest city, Canada Bread effectively leverages transportation costs, and in the plant itself, a sophisticated statistical process control (SPC) system will knit lines together seamlessly.

The Hamilton plant, known inside the company as the Trillium bakery, is designed to obtain certification under LEED once the commissioning is complete. LEED, developed by the US Green Building Council, is rapidly becoming the international benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Canada Bread sought LEED Silver Certification for the building to fulfill its corporate mandate to operate according to principles of environmental and societal responsibility.

The company integrated water and energy conservation into the Hamilton bakery. For example, it pulls thermal energy out of oven exhaust stacks to heat water for steam and internal use so efficiently that no boiler is needed. It also uses highly efficient lighting and ballasts, automatic controlled lighting inside and outside the plant and recycled and regionally local materials. The building’s solar reflective roof not only assists temperature control inside the bakery but also captures rainwater to supply greywater needs such as toilet flushing.

As well, the facility will operate under the Food Technical Standard of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), a Global Food Safety Initiative-recognized scheme. The company has implemented quality management programs and is in the process of building data to validate compliance. Mr. Miller said Hamilton will be BRC-certified in early 2012.

Canada Bread executives described the bakery’s greenfield site in the new Red Hill Business Park as a crossroads location. Situated at the intersection of two of the city’s major trafficways, the bakery also has fast access to the province’s main distribution arteries: the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and 403 highways.

“The location is very important,” Mr. McCain observed. “You have to have logistics that put you close to your customers. And we needed the land.”

Unlike its other facilities, some of which are now located in residential neighborhoods in Toronto, Canada Bread’s Hamilton bakery has ample room to grow and is the anchor tenant in the industrial park. “The other Ontario plants are land-locked,” Mr. Miller noted. “This site gives us the ability to expand beyond the nine lines already planned.”

THE SPC ANGLE.

During startup, Canada Bread’s engineering and operations staff began implementing a highly advanced computer control system that will directly operate all lines in the plant. The central control room on the plant’s mezzanine level overlooks the production floor.

“Although it’s currently a work in progress, SPC will eventually drive and control operations,” Mr. Miller said. Formulas and equipment adjustments will be made from the control center to ensure product consistency, quality and product freshness. “If there’s a problem,” he explained, “the central command post will seek out the root cause based on data from quality assurance and the SPC system to prevent the issue from happening again. It’s a different way to manage the plant. We haven’t seen this level of control in any other bakery, here in North America or in Europe.

“The development of technology in baking generally moves at a snail’s pace,” Mr. Miller added. “So here, it’s what we’re doing in process control, ease of sanitation and selection of equipment that makes the difference.”

A few years ago, Canada Bread started deploying an SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Now being implemented throughout the company, the SAP ERP system manages the Hamilton bakery, too.

ENGINEERING FOCUS.

The multifunctional team responsible for Hamilton and led by Mr. Miller set its sights on raising line efficiency and lowering costs, as well as improving product quality through newer equipment, better sanitation and a stronger emphasis on controls than ever before in company history.

Thinking ahead in 2007, Canada Bread bought the equipment from the shuttered Interstate Bakeries Corp. facility at Lakewood, WA. That plant operated for less than five years, thus much of its machinery was in near-mint condition. “We made that purchase anticipating using the equipment here, but we completely redid all the electronics,” Mr. Miller said.

Engineers working on the Hamilton project integrated that equipment with brand-new systems to assemble the first two lines: one for pan bread, the other soft buns. The company’s Dempster’s brand white and whole-wheat round-top pan breads account for more than 70% of the bread line’s output. The bun line makes the company’s popular Villaggio brand, among others.

The building features a walled-off walkway around the perimeter of the production area. Windows allow visitors to look into the operation rooms. “We installed this corridor to assist safety and hygiene,” Mr. Miller explained.

Walls and doorways section off the plant to separate makeup from proofing and baking, both for climate control as well as employee comfort. Good air movement and the building’s concrete construction keep interior temperatures steady. “Even when it was 35°C [95°F] outside recently, it was only 31°C [88°F] by the oven,” Mr. Miller noted.

Handwashing stations enforce hygiene standards at entries to product zones, including shipping.

A dropped ceiling conceals all mechanical components, utilities and electronic connections, thus making the mixing and makeup area totally washdown-capable. Similarly, ingredient hoppers and their dispensing systems are above the ceiling. Mr. Miller explained that the bakery’s design deliberately keeps horizontal piping out of the makeup area, thus eliminating potential harborage for pests and pathogens and simplifying cleanup.

“Such design is very common in Europe,” Mr. Miller explained, “but not in North America.” He said that front-end quality control and assurance for makeup operations, in particular, owed much to what the plant team saw when visiting European facilities.

A large on-site engineering shop supports ongoing installation activities as well as routine preventive maintenance. A separate staging area allows construction and assembly of new equipment.

FROM SILO TO SHIP.

Breads and buns baked at the plant take just 2½ hours from mixing to distribution staging, and finished products reach store shelves no more than 48 hours later.

The bakery’s computer-integrated ingredient system supplies bulk, major and minor ingredients to the mixers. Canada Bread installed its bulk silos indoors to mitigate the effects of seasonal temperatures and humidity changes. Load cells constantly monitor contents of all silos. The silo room’s walls feature explosion panels, an important safety measure.

“This system is designed to prevent flour from escaping, but safety is important to us because flour dust is known to be explosive,” Mr. Miller said. Flour-recovery systems in the makeup areas minimize flour dust in the plant.

A pneumatic unloading system supplies the bakery’s eight flour silos and one salt silo. A 10th silo position is reserved for future use. The bulk truck receiving center is fully enclosed against the weather, an unusual choice for bakeries, according to Mr. Miller. “We did this to reduce noise for our neighbors,” he said.

Bulk ingredients — flour, sugar, salt, oil and cream yeast — go directly from delivery vehicles to their designated storage silos, bins and hoppers while nonbulk ingredients come in on skids to be held in a 3-tier rack system. Some liquids arrive in bulk totes.

Three types of wheat flour are currently used at Hamilton: two varieties of white and one whole-wheat. On its way to the mixer, flour passes through one of two sifters in the silo room.

MIX AND BAKE.

Seven horizontal mixers manage preparation of the bakery’s straight doughs. Three mix bread doughs while two handle bun doughs. An additional mixer is on standby.

Bread dough discharges from the mixers and is pumped onto conveyors that deliver it to two rotary bread dividers, while bun doughs are portioned on two rotary bun dividers. The rounded dough balls to be made into bread loaves rest on horizontal belts as they travel to the bakery’s three sheeter-moulders. Portioned bun doughs enter an intermediate proofer and makeup system.

Pans, held in an automated storage-and-retrieval system and fed into the production lines by stacker/unstacker units, move into place ahead of the makeup sections. An indexer positions the 6-strap bread pans for entry into the targeted-spray pan oiler. The strapped pans travel through the system with their wide edge forward, a technique that maximizes capacity output but advantageously slows belt speed.

The conveyors carrying pans filled with dough pieces move through openings in the wall from the makeup area to the room housing the proofers and ovens. Bread doughs rest and rise inside a tray-style proofer before they enter the single-lap, direct-fired tunnel oven. Buns bake in the second oven, also using single-lap design.

A depanner removes loaves from pans and sends them along to the spiral conveyor where they cool prior to slicing. Operators check products against established specs at a quality assurance station next to the depanner. Another Capway depanner handles buns.

The packaging room, like the makeup area, is environmentally controlled and enclosed. The plant stores packaging supplies in a tiered rack immediately outside the packaging room and separate from raw ingredients.

Sliced and bagged, finished products are automatically placed in basket-style delivery trays. The filled trays move on conveyors through openings between the packaging room and the distribution staging area. Here, seven bottom-up basket stackers assemble the filled delivery trays into stacks. Operators pull the finished stack off the line, place a tag identifying variety and pull date on the stack, and move it to the order assembly area.

Transport trailers backed up to 16 dock doors stand ready to receive the finished baked goods. Everything made at Hamilton leaves the plant in tractor-trailers for distribution centers around Ontario where delivery routes are based.

TRAINING DAYS.

Because Canada Bread chose high-tech equipment for this bakery, it set up a training program for line operators, many of whom came from the company’s old plants to this brand-new one.

“Training proved key to the startup,” Mr. Miller said. “And it was done in advance.”

The extensive program provided employees with 12 to 13 weeks of instruction. Standard operating procedures, good manufacturing practices, hazard analysis and critical control points programs and other sanitation, safety and sustainability practices are different at the new bakery. Subjects also included PLC systems and machine parameters. “We had our suppliers training them on specific equipment, and we trained them on food safety and best practices,” Mr. Miller explained.

Hamilton’s managers brought over many of the experienced crew members from the older bakeries and made new hires as well. “It’s a great mix of experienced and new skills,” Mr. McCain said. “We are able both to obtain new skills and take advantage of the vast pool of experience that these people bring with them.”

TIMES TO COME.

Canada Bread managers predicted that most of this bakery’s growth will come from new products, and the company is moving forward to establish capacity for tortillas and rye bread. The focus now is entirely on installing these main production lines and bringing them onstream.

Managers mentioned a warehouse management system to streamline distribution staging as a near-term project.

New product development for this bakery, like the rest of the Canada Bread network, takes place at the company’s headquarters at Etobicoke with R&D staff bringing new items out to Hamilton for scale-up and test runs. The future, however, may see some of that development work done at the new bakery as well.

Hamilton marked a first time that many of the Canada Bread’s managers participated in the design, layout and commissioning of such a large facility. “We wanted to do it and do it right to get a good return,” Mr. Miller said. “So we planned carefully over several years.”
Add a Comment
We welcome your thoughtful comments. Please comply with our Community rules.








The views expressed in the comments section of Baking Business News do not reflect those of Baking Business News or its parent company, Sosland Publishing Co., Kansas City, Mo. Concern regarding a specific comment may be registered with the Editor by clicking the Report Abuse link.