Aspire Bakeries’ latest investment in automation at La Brea Bakery’s Van Nuys facility is an outgrowth of the culture Bakery Director Marcus Garcia has instilled in the bakery. Starting at La Brea Bakery in 2014 as the bakery’s first continuous improvement manager, Mr. Garcia brought his Lean Six Sigma manufacturing background to bear on the artisan bakery. As bakery director, he’s implemented a culture of employee and food safety first and streamlined operations using data and automation to always be improving efficiencies.

“When we shifted our focus to start everything we do with people and food safety first, our numbers really started to flourish as well,” he said. “We hit numbers we had not seen before. Every change we make starts with the people and food safety and the results come with that. Everything else falls in line.”

In prioritizing safety, La Brea Bakery adheres to what Mr. Garcia calls 6S principles, or 5S + Safety, adding Safety as the sixth S in the 5S principles of Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

“Six S not only helps the bakery promote efficient working environments but also establishes a sustainable culture of safety,” he said.

Many programs now ensure both human and food safety is guarded. FSQA Manager Prakash Patel noted that the company developed a toolkit that allows all employees to access the most recent human and food safety standards as well as the most updated Aspire Bakeries policies. Every employee must complete 12 hours of training each year across multiple disciplines: environmental, health, safety and security, food safety and quality, and human resources and people. For quality assurance, random samples of product from every line and shift are reviewed daily in the sensory room and evaluated for taste, appearance and how well they adhere to product specifications.

All of this effort has led to dramatic improvements in key performance indicators (KPIs).

“First pass quality, customer complaints and foreign material complaints have all improved over industry leading numbers year over year since 2019,” Mr. Garcia said.

The BRC-AA certified bakery has a robust sanitation program. In addition, operators are responsible for cleaning their own production lines. This autonomous sanitation mentality empowers employees to take ownership of their equipment.

“If we pass the buck to someone else maybe the quality of that work isn’t going to be as good as someone who is invested in that line running how it should and performing how it should,” Mr. Garcia explained.

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