During the 14 months it took to install the newest bun and roll line at the Turano Baking plant in Orlando, FL, Leo Desrosiers kept on hearing — and sometimes repeating — the same thing over and over again. “The three words that we heard throughout the whole process were, ‘Are you serious?’ ” recalled the vice-president of operations, southern region, for the Berwyn, IL-based family-owned and -operated company.

Typically, such a question becomes more of a symptomatic response when a business ambitiously pushes the envelope on a project. For Turano Baking, it evolved into a rhetorical device after the company constantly challenged the Orlando management team to test the limits on technology, engineering and innovation to design a mind-bending, multipurpose solution to a host of opportunities and challenges.

Today, the second line, which started up in mid-2014 in the 82,000-sq-ft facility, cranks out 4,000 doz soft buns and premium rolls per hour. That’s slightly fewer than the 5,400 doz an hour on the original line installed in 2009. As so often is the case, however, the numbers simply don’t tell the whole story. Back in 2012, way before “Are you serious?” became so popular, Turano Baking needed to answer a few big-picture questions to add strategic direction to the new initiative.

“We had choices to make on this line,” noted Joe Turano, president. “Do we duplicate the highest speed line as we had in the original line? Or do we install a line that may not have the full capacity of the original line but will allow us to provide some flexibility and variety to our product lines?” he recalled.

“We chose the path of flexibility and variety on a line that’s still considered a high-speed system,” he continued. “It just doesn’t produce to the full capacity per hour as the original one does.”

That answer then sparked a slew of other inquiries about how to ensure the bakery could quickly respond to its customers’ needs in the years to come.

“We put a lot of thought into future use,” observed Jeff Kozloski, chief engineer. “When we designed the line, we did a lot of ‘what ifs.’ What if we want more topping equipment? What if we want different packaging? What if we want spraying options after the oven? We wanted to make sure we left enough room and kept enough open area around certain parts of the line for future projects.”

To answer the “what ifs,” industry veterans Mr. Desrosiers, Mr. Kozloski and Jack Mitchell, now Orlando plant manager, collaborated closely with vendors to iron out the scope and details of the new project. In some cases, they sought input from line operators and supervisors as well as the leadership teams at Turano Baking’s three other bakeries, located in Berwyn and Bolingbrook, IL, and Villa Rica, GA. They also visited other baking companies to observe new equipment or processes in action.

At Turano Baking, the door swings both ways when it comes to knowledge-sharing. “We can lean on other bakers we know for ideas, innovations and best practices, and we make sure we do the same for them,” Mr. Mitchell said.

While collaboration remains integral to the company’s culture, so does ownership when it comes to completing a project of this magnitude. “We designed this bakery,” Mr. Kozloski emphasized. “We’re not putting up with problems that someone else created. Everything we did, we’ve done to ourselves. There are no second thoughts on this project.”

What ifs? What’s next?

With the new bun line, Turano Baking strived to achieve a number of top priorities — most importantly, contingency capacity. Normally, conservative companies consider contingency options as Plan Bs, or backup strategies. That was certainly part of the case here, according to Mr. Desrosiers. The bakery wanted to make sure it had sufficient backup with Line No. 2 to support production on Line No. 1, especially for its primary customer supplied by Turano Baking in this core market.

However, the additional capacity also involved a Plan A, as in the ability for the entire company to supply new customers while supporting its existing base with new products. Since Baking & Snack first visited the Orlando bakery in 2011, third-party business in the region has grown significantly.

“We were skittish about taking on new business without contingency capacity,” Mr. Desrosiers said. “With our internal customers, we were finding lines in our other Turano facilities reaching capacity. We were looking to build contingency capacity within our entire system to handle those opportunities.”

In addition to reducing the volume of interplant shipments, boosting capacity also brought production closer to the Orlando plant’s core customers in the Southeast and even expanded its geographic reach to Texas and parts of the South.

Yet another top priority involved engineering in the flexibility to scale up artisan-style products or place buns and premium rolls in new packaging formats. Specifically, the bakery expanded bulk packaging and added bagging capabilities for foodservice and retail customers. It also introduced Turano branded products to new markets.

Moreover, during the past three to five years, limited-time offers (LTOs) have become the fastest way to build sales in the quick-serve restaurants (QSRs), casual dining chains and other foodservice channels, where Turano Baking does a majority of its business. “With LTOs, restaurants aren’t looking for me-too products,” Mr. Desrosiers said. “They want products that are really unique and have their distinctive signature on them.”

Specifically, the versatile new line allows the bakery to diversify its portfolio of buns and rolls with such items as brioche and other premium baked goods.

When it comes to new products, speed to market — along with quality and variety — is also critical in today’s fluid marketplace. “We understand that many of our products have a life cycle, so we continue to work on ‘what is that next new trend?’ ” Mr. Turano said. “What is that next, new popular line of products so we can be ahead of the curve in the marketplace?”

Moreover, as these restaurants expand their menus, chains may require packaging in various formats, including smaller packs — instead of bulk packs — to maintain freshness as new items gain traction among consumers. “In the past, manufacturing drove what packaging systems you used,” Mr. Kozloski observed. “Now, it’s the customers driving how products are packaged.”

Creative use of space

With such a sweeping agenda, Turano Florida Bun, as the Orlando operation is called within the company, faced a significant hurdle: space inside the building. The original high-speed line took up 65% of the square footage in the facility. Back in 2009, Turano Baking anticipated it might install a hearth line. However, as customer priorities and market demands shifted, the biggest challenge eventually became how to add as much bun and premium roll capacity — combined with flexibility — in a limited area.

“When we designed the facility, we accommodated enough space for a second line,” noted Anthony Turano, director of administration. “We didn’t know exactly what type of second line we’d install. We mocked up some thoughts at that time and said, ‘We’ll make it fit. No problem whatsoever,’ and sure enough, we made it fit.”

Or as Joe Turano joked, “We shoehorned it in.”

Again, the management team turned to its contractors and equipment suppliers for help in resolving this Rubik’s Cube. Monthly meetings soon accelerated into twice-a-month gatherings. “We’d walk through the plant and through the line — piece by piece — and everyone got to put their two cents in,” Mr. Kozloski said. “We debated the pluses and minuses of everyone’s ideas until we came up with a design we liked.”

In all, it took 24 drafts before Turano Baking settled on the final option. Initially, the goals were modest, but as new ideas came forth, scope creep took over. At one point to maximize vertical space, the project team toyed with building a huge mezzanine to house all of the production equipment — much in the way old-time bakeries operated in multi-story buildings. “Somewhere between drafts 10 and 14, we saw some practicality of the operation set in,” Mr. Kozloski recalled.

To make the most of space available, the bakery tore down its original production office. “We now have a modular office,” Mr. Mitchell said. “We had to be quite creative.”

That creativity extends to the practical use of vertical space, according to Anthony Turano. The new line’s spiral cooler sits on a mezzanine platform. The facility now has six HVAC units, which are vitally important for maintaining product quality and workplace comfort in hot, humid Florida. The new units rest on a platform over the Workhorse Automation pan storage-and-retrieval system, which serves both lines.

“It was definitely a jigsaw puzzle,” Mr. Mitchell observed.

In most cases, he noted, Turano Baking kept with the same vendors it used for the original line. That allowed it to add redundancy as a part of its contingency plan and streamline its spare parts inventory by having more interchangeable replacement parts for both lines. Some components, such as its Shick USA liquid brew, Laramore flour recovery and Stewart Systems bulk packaging systems, can serve either production line.

Another benefit involved skilled labor. Historically, Mr. Mitchell said, Turano Baking had always done a good job cross training. When starting up the second line, the company assigned three “general helpers” who were thoroughly knowledgeable about operating everything from mixers and dividers to packaging — and put them in charge of training the first, second and, soon, third shifts.

Moreover, the company upgraded its human machine interface (HMI) systems on both lines to provide better quality control and reduce downtime. “The HMI is all top-of-the-line,” Mr. Kozloski said. “They’re all networked with one another. If one fails, we can control that system from any other HMI terminal in the plant.”

Changing with the times

Unlike many dedicated bun operations, the new line produces up to six different varieties of artisan buns and rolls a day, resulting in multiple changeovers that can often be a timely, costly and labor-intensive process. “We worked with our suppliers and told them we wanted a 10-minute changeover,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Specifically, they focused on quick disconnects involving replacing carriages, tool-less adjustments and other creative solutions. Today, changeovers can be as short as three to five minutes. In all, the company routinely experiences only about 20 minutes of downtime — on both lines — during a full day of production.

Overall, the SQF Level 3-certified facility has about 34,700 sq ft of processing, 17,000 sq ft for packaging, 6,300 sq ft for warehousing and the remainder for office and other space. Three shifts run 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a full day of preventive maintenance and sanitation on Saturdays for Line No. 1 and a full day on Sundays for Line No. 2. In all, 100 people now work at the Turano Florida Bun operation.

The bakery has three Shick USA 225,000-lb flour silos, two 92,000-lb soy oil and sugar tanks and two 60,000-lb cream yeast tanks set outside the building. The company recently installed a fourth 165,000-lb silo for high-gluten artisan flour. To show how much production has grown, flour deliveries have doubled to 18 weekly during the past year, with the operation typically using up to 1 million lb a week, according to Mr. Mitchell.

Shick bag-dump stations offer the option to supply mixers with minor ingredients. Supersack dispensers provide salt and, more recently, granulated sugar. The company added the sugar system to provide extra ­flexibility in formulation of buns and rolls for its customers.

With the new line, Turano Baking installed a Shick 1,000-gal brew system that’s slightly larger than the original 700-gal batch operation. Mr. Mitchell pointed out that the company learned it needed a slightly larger system to keep up with demand and offer flexibility to more easily adjust fermentation based on the quality of flour. “We built contingency into the bakery. Both systems can go back and forth between the two lines,” he noted.

A Shick IntelliBatch ingredient management system controls the inventory of ingredients and their flow to the mixers, which includes an AMF Bakery Systems 2,400-lb horizontal mixer and a CMC America 1,600-lb mixer. Turano Baking installed the smaller mixer to provide the versatility to create doughs as little as 800 lb in size for specialty and artisan-style buns and rolls as well as to cater to a wider variety of customers.

During this year’s Baking & Snack visit, the bakery cranked out brioche rolls on Line No. 2 using the AMF mixer. The dough chunks then enter the AMF HBD/SMP divider/sheeter. The eight-pocket extrusion divider can run up to 90 cuts a minute for high-speed bun production or 65 cuts a minute for artisan-style products like brioche. Each pump has its own servo motor to adjust dividing more quickly and with greater accuracy. After traveling through an AMF Accupan bun makeup system with rounder bars, the dough balls receive a brief intermediate proof. A Laramore centralized reclamation system removes excess dusting flour from both lines.

Producing artisan-style buns and rolls requires a different approach from making high-speed hamburger buns, according to Mr. Mitchell. “What the team needed to learn about artisan rolls is completely opposite from what they learned from producing conventional buns,” he explained. “You want the baking process to achieve a pronounced break-and-shred along with an open grain and a darker crust color.”

A Burford orbital shaker aligns the panned dough ­pieces. To mimic capabilities on Line No. 1, the new line has a Burford Smart Seeder and a water splitter.

The 24- to 48-piece pans then enter a Stewart Systems conveyorized proof-and-bake system. Thanks to the crossover design of the interior conveyors, the pans enter and exit the systems at waist height.

“The proofer is designed to produce two completely different rolls,” Mr. Mitchell observed. “Artisan-style products require much drier proofing while high-speed buns need much more moisture. We want the brioche to show stress cracks and cell structure, which are typical of an artisan-style product.”

After depanning, the buns travel up to the mezzanine level and cool for 28 to 30 minutes on an AMF variable-speed spiral cooler with Intralox belting. A Sightline vision system inspects all buns and rolls. Because the inspection system is located on an elevated platform after the cooler, Turano Baking installed a second viewing panel next to the oven, allowing the operator to monitor products and make real time adjustments to the baking process.

For a smooth transition from one variety to another, the bakery installed a Stewart pan stacker/unstacker system that works with the Workhorse pan system that feeds both lines.

Plenty of packaging options

For retail bagged items, buns and premium rolls travel through a UBE slicer, a UBE bagger and a Kwik Lock bag closure system, then to one of two AMF ABL packaging systems. The vacuum heads of the automatic basket loaders gently pick up the packages, according to Mr. Mitchell. “The ABLs pick up the bags without touching the buns,” he noted. “Typically, you can have a lot of damaged product in the packaging area because it’s shortly after baking and the product is so delicate.”

For contingency reasons, Turano Baking installed a fourth, identical Stewart P-1000 pillow packer, which can serve either production line. After slicing, large packages of soft rolls then pass through indexers and aligners to make sure the pillow packers are evenly fed. A heat sealer system separates larger packages into smaller compartments. “We can take a 30-pack and heat-seal it into three packages of 10 buns, or we can take a 12-pack of brioche and seal it into two 6-packs,” Mr. Mitchell explained. “Because foodservice operators open up only six or 10 buns at a time, the smaller packs help them maintain freshness at the store level.”

The packages travel through metal detection and through one of four AMF basket loaders and stackers — or they are placed on trays or manually case-packed. As its geographic reach expanded over the past few years, Turano Baking discovered it needed to do more cardboard case-packing because the distribution — especially to new customers — is only one way.

The bakery plans to install an inline case erector and automatic case-packer in the near future. Additionally, returned baskets go through a tray washer before reentering the bakery.

A quick-response culture

Since the bakery opened six years ago, the food industry has evolved into a much faster-paced environment. Only the most nimble of bakers can take full advantage of shifts in the market as the window of opportunity shrinks, according to Mr. Mitchell. As a result, he added, successful companies need to transform themselves into quick-response teams from an operation’s perspective.

“It doesn’t take months within the Turano organization to make decisions. It takes minutes,” Mr. Kozloski observed. “We’re able to move on a project very quickly. The approval process is very rapid. If you look at fads and trends, they aren’t here for long. If you don’t get onto it quickly, you can lose out by being at the tail end of a movement.”

Giancarlo Turano, principal, suggested customers — and consumers — are stepping up the pace of change. “The more specific your customers’ needs become, the more innovative you have to be,” he said.

For Turano Baking Co., the Orlando bakery is just another chapter in the book on the family-owned business, a book that spans more than a half century. As time goes on, the learning process from the Orlando bakery expansion will continue to pay dividends for the company.

“I wouldn’t say that gleaning ideas from other facilities ever stops. We just have one more facility where we can pull knowledge from,” Mr. Desrosiers said. “When we came here, many of us were not used to this collaborative effort with vendors and other customer partners. That opens up a whole new world where you can learn from other people in the industry.”

Collaboration, for a quick-response company, certainly ramps up speed-to-market when it comes to rolling out new products.