Flowing in a straight line

Overall, production runs in a straight line. “In a classic flow-through, you receive your ingredients at one end of the building, you store them, you process them, and you package them. Packaged goods flow through the storage freezer and out the opposite end,” Mr. Zakian said. “Being able to start from scratch, I could lay it out so that we had an efficient flow of raw materials and packaging through the plant.

“By creating individual production rooms for food safety, it also put us in the mindset about producing quality products,” he continued. “Each of the rooms is brightly lit, well laid out with a lot of space — it’s not congested. Congestion and quality, to me, just don’t go hand in hand.”

The key, Mr. Hamade said, involved optimizing space by getting as much equipment as possible per square foot and maximizing throughput. Specialty Bakery also took advantage of interstitial space by placing utilities in a large mezzanine room between the ceiling and the roof of the building. In addition to reducing downtime for sanitation and maintenance by keeping the production area uncluttered, locating utilities above the production area sped up the initial construction of the building. Mr. Zakian noted it allowed contractors to install utilities while they laid the concrete floor in larger sections.

Throughout Baking & Snack’s tour, Mr. Hamade and Mr. Zakian pointed out the thorough attention to detail that went into building the bakery — and the business — from scratch. The company uses a cloud-based information system and state-of-the-art Apple computers. It also invested in ERP up front instead of adding it at a later date. “By doing so from the start, we’ve been earning efficiencies from day one,” Mr. Hamade said. “You may pay more in the beginning, but you have a lot less downtime in the long run. You don’t have to worry about viruses with Apple, and training is a lot easier by having ERP installed from the startup of the bakery.” (See “Training in the Center of Excellence” on Page 43.)

Specialty Bakery enlisted the expertise of several highly regarded food safety specialists to review the sanitary design of the facility to optimize food safety in all facets of the design, including traffic, air, ingredient and product flow. For food security, the company built a secure waiting room next to the receiving department where delivery drivers hang out while the bakery unloads incoming raw materials and files the necessary paperwork. “This way, we ensure there is no unauthorized access into the bakery,” Mr. Hamade noted.

Moreover, he said, all ingredients are placed on sanitized plastic pallets to prevent the unclean wooden ones from entering the production areas. Each pallet receives its own internally generated “license plate” for wireless lot tracking and traceability throughout the entire process and including shipping. Using the ERP system for lot tracking from front door to back has streamlined product trace capabilities.

Specialty Bakery is building a culture that empowers their bakers to be accountable for food safety and quality. “Exceptional customer satisfaction depends on comprehensive risk-based food safety and quality practices,” Mr. Hamade said.

Specialty Bakery is presently working on completing SQF Level 2 certification. The facility also houses an Innovation Center — a fully equipped lab where the company partners with customers to refine new product concepts and take them from the bench to production and eventually to the end consumer.