With a new 200,000 square-foot facility, Fireking Baking Co., Braintree, MA, jumps onto the next tier of wholesale baking, and that requires an investment not just in square footage and equipment. It also means more employees and more investment in food safety and quality assurance.
In the previous building, Fireking employed about 140 people. The new space is currently staffed by 210 people at a time when labor is difficult to find. The bakery hires many through its current employees’ connections, but for entry-level positions, Fireking has relied on temp agencies. This comes with upsides and downsides. While it can take a lot of time and resources to train a temporary employee, for those positions that don’t require many skills but a good work ethic, temp agencies provide Greg Acerra, founder and owner of Fireking, a built-in trial period before he can offer the person a full-time job. During this six- to eight-week period, he can judge whether a temp worker would be a good fit for the job.
“It’s the simple things,” he said. “If there’s a roll on the ground, do they pick it up and put it in the bin? If the machine is down for bag replacement, one person might lean on the machine for a break. Another person will get a broom and sweep up or bring more trays over to the machine.”
New employees and new equipment mean more training as well. Fireking has always been committed to a robust training curriculum. Employees are trained on equipment, GMPs, OSHA and even where to park during heavy snow. And Mr. Acerra has supported those employees for whom English is a second language with not only training materials in their native languages but also with Rosetta Stone subscriptions on tablets to assist their language skills. The new facility’s training room can hold 75 people and features a projector and a TV monitor. This has been a game-changer for Fireking, allowing the bakery to train more people at once and hold larger department meetings.
Food safety and quality assurance has also gotten more complex. In the past few years, Mr. Acerra hired his first quality assurance manager and has doubled that staff. At the smaller facility, a manager was on the bakery floor at all times, and that was sufficient to make sure food safety was under control. But with 200,000 square feet to cover, that system no longer works. Now, in addition to a head baker and plant manager, each production process has a floor lead and line lead. This layers the food safety and holds everyone accountable. Additionally, metal detectors check finished product before it is stored or staged for pick-up.
This article is an excerpt from the April 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Fireking Baking Co., click here.