Interchangeable systems

For production, Mr. Hamade and Mr. Zakian turned to about a dozen key vendors they had worked with in the past. “We looked to find best in class when it comes to buying equipment,” Mr. Zakian noted.

When possible, the company invested in interchangeable equipment throughout the bakery. By using the same vendors, Specialty Bakery not only reduces its inventory of spare parts but also allows bakers to easily move from one production line to another. “We’ve cut down on the learning curve,” Mr. Zakian said. “Instead of learning how to operate three pieces of equipment, you just learn one that’s applicable to all three lines.”

Automating lines also reduces waste and ensures making consistent quality products. “You tend to take the human factor out of the occasion,” Mr. Hamade explained. “The more you put your hands into the production process, the more variability you add to it.”

Mr. Hamade and Mr. Zakian designed the facility working with its strategic vendors including Fritsch for sheeting lines, Shick USA for bulk handling and loss-in-weight feeder systems, Sancassiano for mixing, Baker Perkins for wirecut cookies, GEA for spiral freezers, Ishida for scales, Triangle for baggers, Blueprint Automation for casepackers, Heat and Control for metal detectors and checkweighers, Pearson Packaging Systems for case forming and sealing, and Ryson for spiral case conveyors.

Mr. Zakian designed bulk ingredient handling — all provided by Shick USA — for future expansion. In a ­temperature-controlled room, six 200,000-lb silos — five for flour and one for granulated sugar — currently supply the bakery. There’s room for three more. While the sugar sifter rests at the base of the silo, five Great Western flour sifters are located in an adjacent room.

Along with a 60,000-lb soybean oil tank, the bakery houses two 60,000-lb cream yeast systems and two 60,000-lb whole-egg tanks. “It’s one tank per truck because cream yeast and eggs are sensitive ingredients. You never want to mix lots,” he noted.

In the temperature-controlled frozen unbaked cookie room, set at 70°F, the process begins with a Sancassiano automatic batching system composed of three industrial

-sized spiral bowl mixers — one for creaming sugar and butter in the first stage and the other two for incorporating additional ingredients into a batter during the second stage of the process. A Shick loss-in-weight feeder, with a 1,800-lb supersack resting upon a load cell, accurately dispenses inclusions such as chocolate chips, raisins and M&M’s into a bucket elevator that transports them up to a diverter to feed either of the two batch mixers.

A bowl elevator dumps the cookie batter into the hopper of a Baker Perkins wirecut depositor. Hundreds of individually cut pieces enter a GEA single-spiral freezer per minute. Mr. Zakian noted the ammonia-fueled freezer contains four individual coils — three of them freeze the product while one is constantly in defrost mode so the line can run continuously. The freezer comes with an automatic foaming system to aid in sanitation. “We wanted a spiral freezer that we didn’t have to stop every 20 hours to defrost,” he said.

The frozen pieces exit at the top of the freezer and travel to one of two Ishida scales before tumbling down into Triangle form/fill/seal baggers.

In the packaging department, set at 45°F, positive-pressure airflow prevents particulates from migrating to and from the production area. Here, the recently bagged unbaked cookies pass along SpanTech conveyors to a Heat and Control CEIA metal detection system, an Ishida checkweighter and casepacking. After sealing, the cases pass through a second checkweigher and an inkjet printer that adds the product description, lot code and use-by date. The whole case receives another round of metal detection before traveling up a Ryson space-saving spiral conveyor to the centralized palletizing room.