Bimbo Santa María, may be Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV’s original bakery, but the equipment has been updated and modernized to automated high-speed lines throughout its 77-year history. Despite its longevity, the bakery remains one of the most efficient and safest in the company, especially within Bimbo Mexico. 

“This bakery has been an icon for Grupo Bimbo, but it also has been the initial producer of some of our main products still in the marketplace and a place where many people have trained, myself included,” said Jorge Zarate, global senior vice president, operations and engineering, Grupo Bimbo. “This is a magical place that invites you into the craft of baking and producing quality baked goods, maintaining equipment and buildings. It has been an example to our people of manufacturing, to keep a bakery running for so long. We can still produce with productivity, excellent quality and safety for our people. It’s something our people can foster, and we can take to other bakeries in Grupo Bimbo.”

Visitors can see the original mixer, dividers and oven in Grupo Bimbo’s museum at Bimbo Azcapotzalco, also in Mexico City. However, many of the production lines operating today in Bimbo Santa María aren’t the newest, having been installed decades ago. 

Mr. Zarate attributes the longevity of the equipment, the bakery and its stellar efficiency record to both the team onsite as well as Grupo Bimbo’s culture around asset management and capital investment. While capital investment is always an important part of the company’s growth, maintenance, quality and productivity are also critical to ensure those assets last as long as possible. 

“Capital investment is necessary for growth, but it has to be needed; if you’re maintaining equipment and processes the way that you should, it will help delay capital investment,” Mr. Zarate explained. “This is ultimately good for the company and the market, and that’s something we learned at Santa María that we try to spread around the world.” 

Maintaining equipment well allows Grupo Bimbo to focus its capital spending on projects that support growth rather than simply replacing lines that are no longer functioning optimally.

“We don’t tell the team that a new piece of equipment is only supposed to last for X amount of time. Equipment can last as long as you want it to while remaining profitable and producing high quality,” he said. “It’s a matter of culture and mindset that we instill in our people and that we teach the rest of the company and other bakeries.” 

That culture of asset management elicits Grupo Bimbo’s philosophy of being highly productive and the beliefs of remaining competitive and being sharp operators. The company uses technology and systems to track components on the line for predictive maintenance, but it’s also about the attitude of the teams. 

“The key has been to remain close to the process and have our asset management team communicating closely with our production teams,” Mr. Zarate said. 

In fact, Paola Agonizantes, production director of Bimbo Santa María and started her career at the facility 20 years ago, remembered that for the facility’s sweet baked goods production, which has been relocated to another facility since, the oven was older and more manual. 

“Even though it was a used oven, it still produced really well,” she said. “That was because of the excellent maintenance team that was able to preserve the equipment through good maintenance practices.” 

The team at Santa María throughout the years has been diligent at maintaining its efficiency record, which is dependent on operating at full capacity and averting breakdowns. 

“Everyone who goes to work at Santa María understands that it’s the very first bakery, and that it operates in a very efficient way,” Mr. Zarate said. “Of course, the bakery has changed over the years. We’ve done some renovations to the building and the equipment has been changed for better quality and efficiency. But the building is the same, and it still gives you that same feeling.” 

Today Bimbo Santa María’s highly automated lines are dedicated to producing a handful of high-demand products. The efficiency of the bread lines and the new tortilla lines allow the operation to meet capacity demands at a high level of product quality. 

Mr. Zarate pointed to three principles Santa María embodies, proves and sends out to the rest of Grupo Bimbo, the first being asset management.

The other two key lessons Mr. Zarate believes Santa María has helped pass onto other bakeries is the company’s focus on its products and the safety of its people, because Grupo Bimbo recognizes the importance of both quality and employees to its success and growth.  

“A must for Grupo Bimbo is the quality of the product that our consumers expect, and the safety of our people,” he said. “We want to send them home to their families a little bit tired for a good day of work but happier and whole. This is our task.” 

Seventy-seven years later, Bimbo Santa María beats on as the heart of the company, fulfilling that dream of being a sustainable, highly productive and deeply humane bakery.  

This article is an excerpt from the September 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Grupo Bimbo, click here.