Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods’ Lynchburg Organic Baking Co. covers 73,413 square feet, with 16,000 added square footage for ingredient storage. The bakery houses one bread line and four packaging lines that run 24 hours a day, six days a week to meet the growing demand for Dave’s Killer Bread (DKB) loaves. In 2021, its first year in operation, it produced more than 60 million lbs. The facility is USDA Organic Certified, Non-GMO Project verified and kosher certified in keeping with the DKB brand attributes. 

Because the bakery formerly housed a continuous mix system, the only remaining pieces of equipment are the proofer and tray stackers, and there are already plans to replace the tray stackers. The rest of the bakery’s equipment is entirely new. 

Ingredients — all organic, of course — are delivered by truck and stored in the warehouse. Two Pfening indoor silos store 100,000 lbs of whole wheat flour each and one indoor split silo stores 50,000 lbs of white flour on each side. The rest of the major ingredients are stored in supersacks and scaled by a Pfening system, and minor ingredients are autoscaled. 

The dough is mixed in one of three Shaffer tilt-bowl mixers that output 2,000 lbs of dough every 7 minutes. Typically, Flowers’ bakeries only have two mixers, according to Robert Benton, executive vice president of network optimization, but DKB doughs take longer to mix and must always be moving.

“The mix takes longer and needs more attention because the dough has a lot of gluten in it,” he explained. “It takes a lot of development time because other than our White Bread Done Right and the Good Seed varieties, there’s no white flour in these doughs.”  

Final doughs exit the mixer into an AMF chunker. An overhead dough conveyor keeps the dough moving quickly to the AMF ram and shear divider. If the dough sits for too long, it will become too dense to process, so automation is critical during makeup. Dough pieces are shaped in an AMF conical rounder before being sent to one of two conveyors that convey the dough overhead to two AMF sheeters. The dough pieces are reduced by a series of rollers and then rolled up again before a pressure board presses the air out, ensuring a solid grain in the final product. A Gemini Bakery Equipment seeder applied the seeds on the outside of The Good Seed variety being produced during Baking & Snack’s visit. Another pressure board presses the seeds into the dough pieces before they are panned and sent to the conveyorized proofer for a 55-minute ride. Lost seeds are reclaimed and cycled back through the system. 

After proofing, the pans travels to the AMF single-lap oven where a loader bar automatically pushes them into the oven to bake for 30 minutes. The new oven technology delivers a more efficient bake that keeps the majority of the heat inside the oven, leaving those standing nearby to question if it’s actually an oven at all. The traditional heat expected to come off the oven just isn’t there. 

As the baked loaves come out of the oven, a Capway Automation depanner removes and reorients the loaves to enter the enclosed cooler. The hot pans are taken up to an overhead conveyor where they are rapidly cooled, keeping the bakery’s environment from getting too hot for people or product. Afterward, the pans pass through a Henry Group pan cleaner before being used again. 

As bread enters the dual spiral cooler, the dehumidified, refrigerated air being cycled through the cooler ensures the bread is cooled to the optimal temperature for slicing and packaging every time. 

Once bread leaves the cooler at a relatively cool 100°F, it’s inspected by a Sightline Vision System, which collects data on width, height and color. 

“This helps us maintain our quality standards,” explained Rich Luciano, general manager, Lynchburg Organic Baking Co. 

Fortress Technology metal detection then checks for any food safety issues. 

Within-spec product is then sent to one of four packaging lines. DKB loaves are sliced and then bagged by Bettendorf Stanford slicers and baggers. The bags are sealed with a Kwik Lok clip. The packages are trayed, then stacked by four Pulver tray stackers. 

The entire process takes longer than a more conventional Nature’s Own loaf: 3.5 hours vs. 2 hours. Much of that extra time comes from the mixing process and cooling, hence the investment in a more controlled cooling system. 

While the process of baking the bread is essentially the same as conventional bread — mix, makeup, proof and bake — the window of variability is tighter. 

“It can be harder to get this bread through the system while making sure you don’t have holes or the dough gets too large or bucky on you,” Mr. Benton said. “You have to be very buttoned-up on your controls.”  

To that end, new digital infrastructure was being installed at the Lynchburg Organic Baking Co. during Baking & Snack’s visit for Flowers’ Bakery of the Future initiatives. Dan Scott, vice president of digital supply chain, noted the digital tools provide operators with real-time business metrics across five categories: automated views, standardized process, sensor-based quality checks, performance management and data entry. 

Dashboards and digital charts show performance of the equipment and provide operators with data-driven insight into how operations can be improved. Sensors will help operators monitor and improve baking quality and catch any issues earlier in the process, driving down waste. Overall equipment effectiveness will become a new metric for evaluating the bakeries, and digital data entry will reduce paper-based record keeping. All of this will help improve the consistency from across different shifts. 

“We expect those changes to translate into meaningful benefits, such as reduced scrap and labor expenses, provide even higher levels of product quality, and more efficient production in our bakeries,” Mr. Scott said. 

It’s just another step to bakery perfection.

This article is an excerpt from the August 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Flowers Foods/DKB, click here.