Going live on production

For two weeks prior to making saleable products, Clif Bar focused on GMPs and conducted final validation runs on both lines. Production for the bars flows straight from west to east with four receiving docks taking in ingredients, most of which come on pallets or in totes, and scanning them to initiate the company’s closed-loop, lot-tracking process. Information systems record every raw ingredient and packaging material, everything is tracked from the time it is received off the truck to the time the finished goods leave the facility.

Around the perimeter of the temperature- and moisture-controlled bakery, the plant has separate warehouses for dry and refrigerated liquid ingredients and packaging materials — with ample space to hold seven days of inventory for three production lines operating at peak overall equipment effectiveness.

Likewise, organic syrups — an ingredient in Clif Bars — are delivered in bulk and stored in Shick Solutions tanks with room to add more as the third production line goes live. The CIP-capable tanks sit on load cells that constantly monitor syrup delivery and usage through the plant’s Manufacturing Execution Software (MES) and ERP systems.

Shick’s batch management and lot tracking systems provide ±0.1% metering accuracy, according to Mr. Sloan. A mezzanine outside of the room allows bakery employees to safely inspect and test the syrups prior to accepting delivery into the tank farm.

“Clif Bar required a hygienic, dairy-grade storage and automated batching system for liquids, and Shick Solutions delivered,” Mr. Berger said.

Flavorings are stored in a separate room for safety reasons, and Clif Bar makes all of its chocolate using a Sollich system in another enclosed room just aside production and bar forming.

About 80% of the primary dry ingredients, such as organic oats, are dispensed from a Shick bulk handling system with ±0.1% accuracy. The other 20% of minor ingredients, such as chocolate chips and other inclusions that allow the plant to make different product varieties, are scaled using a semi-automated system in another separate room. Overall, just under 77% of Clif Bar & Company’s ingredients are certified organic or sustainable. Mr. Berger added that The Henry Group and Quality Electric provided exceptional installation services, platforms and mezzanines.

Both identical production lines, which are enclosed for allergen control and food safety, come with multiple heavy-duty horizontal mixers allowing constant flow of viscous doughs to the proprietary bar forming lines.

Because most Clif Bar formulations contain various allergens, the bakery must do a deep cleaning of the lines between different product runs. To expedite changeovers, the company invested in duplicate bar-forming equipment for each line. While producing one variety, the removable core components are taken to an enclosed washing and drying room for offline deep cleaning.

Mr. Sloan said the bakery takes a NASCAR-style “pit stop” approach when it comes to changeovers. “We can’t get hamstrung or bottlenecked by cleaning,” he observed. “At the same time, we won’t compromise effectiveness for the sake of efficiency when it comes to properly cleaning between changeovers.”

Because of the configuration of the packaging department, Mr. Sloan noted the layout of the processing lines is staggered — production on Line No. 2 starts about 30 ft downstream from the mixing and makeup on Line No. 1. “We did that to maximize the effective use of space between the production and packaging departments,” he said.