To support tripled growth in three years, The Good Bread Co., Taylor, Mich., has had to make some investments that have lead to a more automated and continuous process at its West Bakery. The facility in Taylor, Mich., has three makeup lines, one tunnel oven and three packaging lines, with plans to install a second tunnel oven. Since 2019, The Good Bread Co. took over the space next door to make room for the tunnel ovens, expanding to 61,000 square feet. 

To keep up with the growing business, the East Bakery has taken on several capital investments in addition to the tunnel oven. A second BB Impiati silo was added to hold another 77,000 lbs of flour, which is delivered multiple times a week. With the addition of another makeup line, a refurbished Adamatic line called Line No. 2, The Good Bread Co. had to invest in a second Koenig roll line and twin twist mixer. 

“When the operation is grown in an incremental fashion, with several physical touchpoints with the product, it is not always clear where bottlenecks will occur,” explained Spiros Assimacopoulos, chief executive officer, The Good Bread Co. “As some parts of the process improve, they exacerbate bottlenecks downstream, especially processes requiring a high degree of manual work.”

The two Koenig mixers create 525-lb batches. The first was installed in 2019 and the second in 2021. Both machines’ twin twist construction gets dough developed in 10 to 11 minutes. Four Bertuetti mixers handle the rest and mixing of sourdough and biga.

Minor and micro ingredients are scaled by hand still while flour and water are automatically scaled and added to removeable mixing bowls. The Good Bread Co. remains true to its artisan roots but has made the switch to a biga from poolish as its primary preferment. 

“Biga is easier to handle than poolish,” Mr. Assimacopoulos said. 

The biga preferments overnight to develop the artisan flavor that only comes with time. Some bread doughs, like ciabatta, are given an hour of floor time to ferment, but the rest goes straight into an automatic bowl hoist for one of three makeup lines: Line No. 1 for round rolls and buns, Line No. 2 for rolls and Line No. 3, a sheeting line for artisan and loaf breads. Line Nos. 1 and 3 are Koenig makeup lines installed in 2019, while the refurbished Adamatic line that is Line No. 2 was installed in 2020. During Baking & Snack’s visit, Line No. 1 was producing whole grain buns for school lunches. 

After dough is added to the makeup lines, it is divided and moulded into rolls and then panned before being manually racked and put in the proofer for one hour. A conveyorized proofer is an investment that Mr. Assimacopoulos can see in the near future, close enough for him to shop for one at this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) that was held last month. Until then, even with the tunnel oven in place, dough is manually moved in and out of the proofer before being placed on a conveyor to enter The Good Bread Co.’s first tunnel oven: a refurbished Werner & Pfleiderer from Gemini Bakery Equipment. 

The tunnel oven is an 80-foot cyclothermic oven with three zones, each with its own controls. It turns out more than 20 pans per minute, so the growing pains of having automated scoring, loading and unloading all in sync is critical. Currently up to six people can be on the scoring team at any given time, while each product going into the rack, wagon and thermal oil deck ovens endure six touches from the production team. All of this, Mr. Assimacopoulos said, aims to be eliminated with both tunnel ovens. 

The second tunnel is a Daub Hanseat thermal oil oven, a technology critical to the bake on some products. In 2019, Mr. Assimacopoulos said the radiant heat with no turbulence sets the company’s artisan breads apart, and in 2022, he’s sticking by that statement. 

After baking, the product is cooled on one of two overhead racetrack conveyors: a 4,200-square-feet cooling conveyor for bread and a 1,500-square-feet conveyor for cooling buns. Using this vertical space frees up production room floor that was taken by product cooling on racks and wagons for operations. 

Four packaging lines handle the many SKUs The Good Bread Co. puts out. There are more investments on the horizon for the packaging department as well as realignment. Once that is finished, Mr. Assimacopoulos said they will be interchangeable. 

LeMatic band and hinge slicers handle buns, while a Hartmann bread slicer handles pan and hearth breads. Three UBE bread and bun baggers package product before bags are sealed by Kwik Lok closures. 

Case-packing and palletizing is currently done by hand, something Mr. Assimacopoulos would like to see eventually assisted by cobots, another item on his IBIE shopping list. 

Palletized product is then placed on trucks to be stored in offsite cold storage before being distributed. 

The Good Bread Co. is always in transition; Mr. Assimacopoulos can’t stop seeing opportunities to invest in, and the business keeps growing. 

“We have a tremendous amount of organic growth in the pipeline between foodservice, commissary and retail,” he said. “We want to continue to be healthfully diversified but also grow through acquisition. I think there’s a shortage of operators in the world at this time, and there’s a lot of medium-sized companies that don’t have succession plans in place. I’m always looking for the right opportunity.” 

To support this growth, as he wraps up this $3 million investment of tunnel ovens, racetrack coolers and all the support infrastructure, Mr. Assimacopoulos turns his attention to the West Bakery. There he plans to invest $2.5 million to quadruple throughput with a new Gemini bread line and install vacuum cooling to gain efficiencies. 

With big plans and big investments on the horizon, don’t be fooled though. Mr. Assimacopoulos isn’t just growing for growth’s sake. 

“Growth is important, but the P&L statement isn’t the only metric for success,” he said when considering the future. “Of course, I want to be successful and lead a great company, but ultimately, what has the most value is how we go about getting there. There is true passion for bread and community in our organization. This is something you can’t see on a balance sheet.”

A good company making good bread; it’s just that simple.

This article is an excerpt from the October 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on The Good Bread Co., click here.