Tasty Baking: Century for Change
Tasty Baking's new 345,000-sq-ft bakery at Philadelphia's Navy Yard culminates the company's 8-year journey of rejuvenation and replaces its original 1992 production plant.

In 2002, Tasty Baking began its revival with a changing of the guard within corporate management. In 2010, the company celebrates a transformation milestone by commissioning a state-of-the-art production plant unlike anything the industry has seen in years.

From the time Charlie Pizzi, president and c.e.o., came aboard in ’02, Tasty began a journey to get its house in order. “The company had admittedly become a very sleepy organization,” said Jon Silvon, director of marketing. “Being in business since 1914, there is no other company that is as well established in its core market. However, longevity can lead to complacency. And the company was beginning to veer down that road.”

“I began with a 100-day plan to learn and understand the state of the company,” Mr. Pizzi said. “I listened to our people and established a vision for the future. Within the first two years, I brought in new board members and key senior management, each of whom had expertise in specific disciplines. I then established five pillars from which to rejuvenate the company: brand investment; product innovation; company culture; geographic route expansion; and operations efficiency.”

After upgrading the talent in its financial department, Mr. Pizzi turned to information technology, bringing in Autumn Bayles, who was previously with a consulting firm. She successfully pressed for a new enterprise resource system among other technology projects and implemented SAP as the company’s new software platform. “We didn’t know how bad our situation was either in financials or operations,” Mr. Pizzi admitted.

JUSTIFICATION.

After full integration of SAP, it became very clear the company needed to do something about the plant’s performance. “It was obvious the Hunting Park facility (the company’s original 6-story, 550,000-sqft bakery across town) was not efficient, but we didn’t realize the extent of the inefficiencies,” Ms. Bayles said. The SAP enterprise resource software program was a tool to methodically identify the facts and analyze the data.

“We saw several key drivers for a new plant,” continued Ms. Bayles, initially c.i.o., now senior vice-president, strategic operations, with responsibility for all company operations — manufacturing, distribution and supply chain. “Safety — both employee and food — efficiency, product limitations and consistency were all areas that needed to be addressed for the company to move forward. Capacity was not an issue, but we made sure the new plant offers tremendous capacity as well as flexibility. We also decided that, because the company now mandates more relevancy in the market and the longstanding relationship it has with the Philadelphia community, going the extra mile on environmental practices was a crucial element to consider. This is why we decided to go for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ( LEED) certification on the design and construction of the new plant.”

Because the plant building is leased, the company didn’t have the burden of construction, although it did work closely with the builder to identify and implement appropriate construction materials, sources, waste recycling and other factors that allow for LEED certification. “We registered and submitted all the information and are waiting for determination of what level of certification we qualify for,” Ms. Bayles said. Mr. Pizzi added that the company is looking into installing solar panels on the roof, through a grant from the state of Pennsylvania, to supplement its power needs.

“Tasty Baking looked at building a new plant at least five times since I have been here,” said Joe Carboy, a 25-year veteran of the company and plant manager of Hunting Park and the new bakery. “However, those plans were built on unrealistic ideas, and incentives and tax benefits were either not available or unknown to us at those times.” The company is currently running both facilities while it ramps up production.

Through programs such as the Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone (KOIZ) and others, as well as local banks, the company was able to secure public and private financing that made a new plant feasible. KOIZ is an economic and community development program that develops a community’s abandoned, unused and underutilized land and buildings into business districts and residential areas that present a well-rounded and well-balanced approach to community revitalization, according to its Web site. It is a partnership between state and local government in collaboration with the Department of Revenue (state taxes) and the Department of Labor and Industry (Unemployment Compensation taxes). Philadelphia’s Naval Yard was decommissioned 10 years ago and subsequently deemed a KOIZ. Tasty Baking is one of the flagship corporations to call the Naval Yard home. PROCESS. After deciding to build a new bakery, evaluations had to be made on technology, layout and flow. “Production at Hunting Park is vertical,” Mr. Carboy said. “All ingredients are pumped or transported to the sixth floor, and the process then flows across each floor then down to the next — from mixing to baking to cooling to packaging and shipping. Palletized products were then shuttled to a warehouse and distribution center around the block.”

“We knew many things we did would be an improvement,” Ms. Bayles said. “We had the golden opportunity to not only think about our present needs but the future as well, and the final layout of the new plant reflects that. After the general design was laid out, we worked closely with Fluor Engineering to be the ‘glue’ that brought together the various equipment vendors, who we also worked with in very close partnership. In all ways, it was a tremendous success.”

When deciding on vendors, the Tasty team and Fluor searched for suppliers that could not only bring value through technology, experience and expertise but also a cooperative personality of the company and the individuals involved.

However, there were some unique challenges as well. Through the years, its existing aluminum baking pans became rutted and created a unique appearance to Tasty’s products. “Our big concerns were quality and consistency,” Ms. Bayles added. “Our products have a unique texture and appearance that we had to maintain, even though oven technology would be advancing more than 60 years. With creative input and cooperation from our vendors, we resolved this and other situations we encountered going from an old facility to the world-class operation we have now.”

“Another area of difference as well as opportunity was the levels of control the new processes would give us,” added John Sawicki, director of research and development. “Touch-screen control panels with preset parameters and security levels eliminated manual tweaking of oven burners or ba•es, mixing times and a host of other settings. Now, other than quality control checks, there are no human ‘touches’ to the products from mixing through packaging.”

The whole process had to be seamless, not only from a quality and consistency aspect but also production scheduling. Commissioning the new plant is a staged process, and for close to nine months, both plants are running simultaneously at some level. “There is activity 24/7 at both plants,” Mr. Carboy said. “We are not only commissioning lines but also decommissioning and transferring some equipment. I think this is the most complex and unique process any baking company has ever tackled because of the size, configuration and technology differences and unique products produced at a single production plant.”

The company also operates a plant in Oxford, PA, but that facility is mostly a fry plant, producing honey buns, donuts and loaf cakes. Coincidentally, Oxford saw capital investment in the past year and is taking on one more donut line that was transferred from Hunting Park.

FLOW.

The 345,000-sq-ft, seven production line, single-story plant is designed with a straight-line flow. Processing and packaging encompasses 150,000 sq ft with an additional 80,000 sq ft dedicated to the baking systems. A 100,000-sq-ft attached warehouse and distribution area has capacity for 3600 pallets of finished products and includes 10 dock doors as well as DSD route truck pick-up areas. The storage and shipping department uses a proprietary voice-activated warehouse management system that not only directs specific product storage locations but also manages order picking.

The Hunting Park plant has 550,000 sq ft of space, including 207,000 for processing, 91,000 for packaging, a 79,000-sq-ft warehouse and 173,000 sq ft in ancillary space. It had been operating 15 processing and packaging lines. Off site, around the corner, the company maintained a 130,000-sq-ft finished goods warehouse and its former corporate headquarters.

As of early March, the Naval Yard plant had three of its seven lines running and the distribution center recently moved. Commissioning plans are ahead of schedule, and management anticipates full operation by June, with closure of Hunting Park soon after. Lines for pies, cookies, cupcakes and Krimpets were up and running in early March. The remaining lines for Juniors/Kreamies, Kandy Kakes and a second cupcake line are set for ramp-up during the next three months.

Production scheduling and line reliability is a key difference between the plants, according to Mr. Carboy. “At Hunting Park, we produce to a higher inventory due to line reliability, while the new plant will produce more closely to demand, or tighter demand driven manufacturing. We feel we can deliver fresher products faster to the market. The flexibility designed into the new plant allows this.”

$75 million was invested in new equipment, equipment transfer from Hunting Park, installation and training. The company signed a 26-year lease on the Naval Yard building and has sufficient acreage to expand if needed. Annual volume for the company (not split by plant) is 6.7 million cases, equivalent to 88 million lb for total net sales of $174 million.

WORLD CLASS.

All operations start with ingredient handling systems provided by Shick USA. There are six dry-ingredient silos including two each for cake flour (250,000-lb each), pie flour and sugar (the last four of which have 125,000-lb capacities). Rail and truck unloading are available for all dry silos. Also, seven 6,000-gal liquid, insulated tanks store cake grease, sucrose, HFCS, 42 DE corn syrup, liquid sugar, pie oil and filler oil. Both oil tanks are heated and agitated. The oils are converted in-house to plastic shortenings via Cherry-Burrell votators and used in pie dough and icing and filling-creme formulas.

Inline sifting from Great Western Manufacturing precedes flour storage as well as between silos and use bins in production. Material handling employs vacuum transfer methods and loss-in-weight control from use bins to mixers. All air handling systems are isolated to reduce plant noise, and air is dehumidified prior to use.

From use bins, Shick distribution systems direct ingredients to the various production lines’ mixers and slurry blenders. Many of the Shick systems were factory pre-assembled to save on cost of installation, according to the supplier. Minor and micro ingredients are hand scaled with future possibilities for automation. Three types of liquid eggs — whole, whites and yolks — are stored in insulated totes, and feeding to the blenders will be automated in the final ramp-up stages.

Powdered sugar is produced in house to a 12x grind, allowing 97% material passage through 350-mesh screens. The ingredient is also chilled using a fluidized bed system and low-pressure air prior to mixing. Two Tonelli 500-gal mixers produce icings, which are stored in plasticlined 55-gal bins. Creme fillings are made using a series of votators and delivered directly to the production lines as needed.

Specialized icings and fillings are produced in smaller batches. “We scotch our own butter for butterscotch icing, and we blend our own chocolate and peanut butter,” Mr. Carboy noted.

Pie dough is prepared using an Excellent Bakery Equipment Artofex triple-action reciprocating dualarm mixer. When ready, dough is hoisted, dumped in a hopper and sheeted to a specified thickness, the dough sheet is then laid over the conveyorized makeup line that includes pockets in which individual tins have been deposited. The line was designed by Graybill Machines.

The dough sheet is gently pressed into the tins, and filling — fruit or custard — is intermittently portioned into the depressions. Twin castered depositors allow fast changeover between products. A separate dough sheet is docked, laid on top of the filling and crimped. Pie tins are lifted from the conveyor to the oven belt, and excess dough is reclaimed to the hoppers.

Pies bake in a C.H. Babb 60-ft, 2-zone, indirect-fired oven. After baking, pies cool in an I.J. White refrigerated spiral conveyor system. The Ultra Series design of the system includes a patented automated belt tensioning device that imparts only enough tension on the belt to optimize performance and extend the life cycle of the belt.

To save floor space, the supplier installed the refrigerator fans, coils and high-effi ciency condenser package above the product zone, which creates a multi-path air flow and even cooling within the system. A Typhoon belt washer saves water and energy by creating a focused cleaning zone, with foaming, washing, rinsing and sanitizing conducted within a single unit.

The cookie bar line uses a Shaffer Manufacturing 1,500-lb double-arm mixer to produce 1,100-lb batches. Food Process Automation provided the depositor and oven systems. Dough is deposited in ribbons, which are guillotined after baking. The 3-zone, indirect gas-fired oven bakes the dough for less than 10 minutes. After baking, bars cool on an I.J. White ambient modular spiral conveyor relocated from the Hunting Park facility. KAKE LINES. Mimicking the quality and consistency of Tasty’s cake products was initially considered one of the key challenges the company would have with the new bakery. “That turned out to be completely unfounded,” Mr. Carboy said. “Our vendors at Auto-Bake and Dunbar Systems went to great lengths prior to installation to study product parameters and attributes. Significant operational and consumer testing was done with a loaner oven at our Hunting Park warehouse, then in Australia and finally here. By the time we pushed the ‘on’ button on the panel view, we were well on our way for testing.” To duplicate the old lines, new pans were bead blasted to mimic the old pans.

The plant has five Auto-Bake systems: two for cupcakes, one for Kreamies and Juniors and one each for Krimpets and Kandy Kakes. These ovens are heated using thermal oil and convection as opposed to electric heat that is used at the Hunting Park facility.

“The individual thermal oil tanks are housed in an isolated room for noise as well as heat control,” Mr. Carboy said. “Oil is pumped to each line, and the effi ciency is amazing.” Food-grade oil is heated to between 480° and 510°F, depending on product, and less than 5F° are consumed to maintain oven temperatures at their set points.

One design change made to the standard Auto-Bake ovens was the product flow. “In an effort to match parameters of the Hunting Park process, each Auto-Bake line is turned 180 degrees so product is deposited and flows through the ovens back toward the front of the line, then conveys back to further-processing stations,” Mr. Carboy added. Another design change is the position of the pan wash station. Because of space constraints, it had to be incorporated immediately after the oven chamber, so pans flow up, over and down the other side before depanning.

Each horizontal, 9-layer serpentine oven has three zones — top-three, middle-three and bottom-three layers. Temperatures range around 490°F, and bake times are between nine and 13 minutes, depending on product.

Batter is blended in Fedco slurry systems then transferred to Lee Industries holding kettles before going through Cherry-Burrell continuous-mix votators to incorporate air. The batter is then loaded into E.T. Oakes depositors above the conveyor lines.

Pans are greased via a Mallet spray system before batter depositing. After baking, depanned products cool before reaching creme filling and icing stations, if required. Graybill designed the filling, icing and transfer stations.

Keene Technology roll stock feeders lay chipboard strips onto which products are placed before wrapping in Bosch/ Doboy systems. A final inspection through a Fortress metal detector precedes robotic pick-and-place cartoning.

ULTIMATE CONTROL.

All production parameters, material handling and operating systems can be monitored and controlled, depending on security access, from any touch screen in the plant, Mr. Carboy demonstrated. “We have a panel at every oven and mixer as well as one at the main control panel and in our offices,” he said. “I can view and control, if I need to, any aspect of any process in real time from anywhere in the plant. Using the data acquisition system, I can pull up production history from last shift or last month’s shift and know exactly what was happening at any given time.”

In addition to the new equipment and technology and the efficiency and reliability they bring to the new plant, the increased flexibility, significant energy savings and a culture of community and relevancy make this plant unlike anything the industry has seen in years.