Both New Horizons Baking Co. and La Panzanella learned why “out with the old and in with the new” became such a popular saying. For John Widman, senior vice-president of operations at New Horizons, the bane of his existence during the past decade was a cranky conveyorized proofer and oven system installed in 1972 for making hamburger buns.

“That system was nothing but gears, sprockets, chains and timing gates, and you can bet it was going to jam up — especially when you needed it most,” he said.

Keeping the system running was a crapshoot, even after dozens of hours of meticulous maintenance. “You had no guarantee that the proofer was going to make it until the next scheduled downtime,” Mr. Widman recalled. “We just knew it was going to happen.”

Sanitation, too, was a mess. “The old proofer was unbelievable,” he said. “The floor was bad in there, and the gears needed so much grease that it was a constant battle to keep the proofer clean.”

Finally, two years ago, driven by the need to add capacity, New Horizons installed a new conveyorized proofer and oven system that left their mouths agape at the quality of the product. “It was the best startup we ever had,” said Mike Porter, vice-president of sales administration, Genesis Baking Co., a division of New Horizons. “The only problem was our mixer operator did not put salt in the first dough.”

Paul Pigott, owner and CEO of La Panzanella, ran into his own production nightmare when he bought the Italian cookie and cracker company in 2003. The original makeup system beat up the dough, the oven consisted of three pizza ovens slapped together, and the crackers cooled in buckets.

Not surprisingly, the bakery’s yield was less than 50%. By upgrading equipment and following proper production procedures, La Panzanella’s output now tops 90%.

That’s not to say remanufactured equipment is necessarily bad. In fact, Mr. Widman noted that previously owned systems are the company’s first option. If used systems aren’t available or up to snuff, the bakery then shops for something new.

New Horizons, for instance, found a used overhead cooling conveyor for pennies on the dollar for its recently expanded Norwalk, OH, bakery. All the company did was replace the chain, and it was almost good as new. Mr. Widman, however, didn’t compromise when it counted. “We went with a new proofer and oven because they are the heartbeat of the operation,” he said.

And you bet, the bakery’s sanitation and maintenance departments were darn happy about that (read more about New Horizons here and La Panzanella here).