The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic not only caused La Brea Bakery to prioritize its Take & Bake products, but it also forced the bakery to invest in automation to keep up with the new demand while delaying other capital investments. The new robotic scoring system installation has been put on hold as well as an oven belt as travel restrictions have prevented OEMs from installing the equipment. 

“The pandemic has delayed the return on this investment, but we are looking and working forward to crossing the finish line on this automation project in the next few months,” said Marcus Garcia, bakery director at La Brea Bakery’s Van Nuys’ facility.

For the equipment that could be installed, all FATs were done via video conference.

As far as bakery production in the time of COVID-19, La Brea Bakery offered optional testing for employees twice a week as well as standard protocols such as PPE, plastic partitioning, social distancing and temperature checks. PPE shortages at the beginning of the pandemic and the dip in volume, however, led Van Nuys Sanitation Manager Steve Trang to start mask production in the bakery.

Not even the mask production line was safe from La Brea Bakery’s continuous improvement culture, however.

“We set up a production line with shifts of volunteers making masks,” Mr. Garcia said. “We even created KPIs and a quality program to inspect the masks.”

It paid off, however, as the Van Nuys’ mask production line was able to supply PPE not only to Van Nuys’ employees but also most Aspire Bakeries' bakeries.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on ANA and La Brea Bakery, click here.