In late 2014, Chicago-based East Balt Bakeries began construction on East Balt Roma in Monterotondo, Italy, and began selling products less than a year later in 2015. Rome wasn’t built in one day, and neither was the bakery.
To facilitate a smooth start-up, East Balt Roma spent time on training. Tommaso De Marco, general manager of the company’s Italian operations, said the plant supervisor worked in the Bomporto bakery for a full year and the production manager for six months prior to shipping the first products out of the Monterotondo plant. Even the entire first shift — 17 people in all — spent three months learning the nuances of production prior to the opening in Monterotondo.
Overall, the bakery dedicates 88,000 square feet to processing and packaging, 22,000 square feet for warehousing and 6,500 square feet for offices and other departments. Mr. De Marco’s management team includes Roberto Ambrosino, plant manager; Lucio Milesi, chief engineer; and Rossana Bascio, head of quality assurance and sanitation.
Currently, 45 employees work at the facility on two 12-hour shifts, four days a week. The plant is so highly automated that it takes just four operators to run the front end of bun production. Seven to 10 others work in packaging and shipping, depending on whether the bakery is making bulk or retail packaged products. Typically, the streamlined bun line makes three to four changeovers per day.
Bulk flour and sugar are stored in four CEPI silos, with oil held in three tanks. The bakery also relies on an automated batching system for the blending and dispersing of micro ingredients. Like other support systems, it’s located on the roof, directly above the mixing department. Most minor ingredients such as olive oil and liquid yeast are dispensed from various 1,000-lb totes on the ground floor.
The first level also houses the main bun and bread production line with make-up done in a temperature-controlled room. The bakery uses a conventional bun-making process with an Oshikiri 1,600-lb sponge mixer and an Oshikiri 2,500-lb dough mixer. Both are outfitted with safety cages that allow operators into the area only after the dough kicks out into the trough. Sponges receive up to 4 hours of fermentation in a first-in, first-out trough system.
Adjacent to the mixers, the bakery installed what’s best described as a “command center” that receives a stream of live video from a battery of cameras throughout the bakery. This setup at the front of the line allows operators to monitor production and adjust to the process in real time.
The makeup department houses a bun system located adjacent to a Canol sheeting line for specialty bread. Operators simply attached conveyors to feed products from either line to the proofer and oven.
“Part of the reason we have both makeup lines is that we anticipated we will have more market segmentation that will require us to produce a greater number of products in the future,” Mr. De Marco noted. “We also left more space in packaging and have more versatility to apply a greater variety of toppings. We even left more space between the proofer and oven to accommodate future expansion.”