As consultants who were in the industry as manufacturer in the recent past we know on almost all levels the challenges of running a business, and setting up a new or expanding business.
From our five experiences (including our 400 m2 test bakery/lab) we will share our knowledge with regards to this topic.The first article covered the basics around choosing products, markets, standards and making a failsafe business plan. It might be wise to stress the following: part of making a business plan is doing your math homework on your costing will be/can be. Futhermore the article is written for setting up a bakery in general, Size, equipment selection will be influenced on your product portfolio and your product designs, part of which we will cover in this article.
We currently have a business plan covering products, quality standards, potential customers, product life cycle evaluation, etc, etc. Basically, this is still quite a rough idea. When being not too experienced in an industrialised bakery and the current state of equipment, it is advisable to ask an independent expert to make an inventory of your needs and requirements. By nature we are a bit sceptical to those who can already tell us how much a complete bakery would cost. Only due to the fact that building even in one country can differ due to soil and climate conditions.
We would help you by making a brief for various equipment suppliers which would suit to your needs. This starts with (again) your products, your expected pricing/ margin, required volumes, cost of labour (both skilled and unskilled), your vision for future market developments. This all helps to refine your needs, varying from a highly automated factory to medium automation and more labour. By defining all this we can also make an inventory of what the specific techniques will you need for manufacturing the estimated assortment of products. This combined with the required standards defines which equipment manufacturers should get a brief.
There are however some other aspects to consider here; a mistake made by many in the business is that they virtually want everything to be automated and that everything needs to be failsafe. However the only way to learn and master certain parts of the trade is by allowing mistakes; it will not only make the business stronger, it helps your staff to grow and sometimes more important: some great innovations found their origin in a flaw or mistake. Therefore a fundamental business decision needs to be made: how will the knowledge base and learning perspective of the staff need to look like? Will there be skilled experienced or unexperienced people present. One of our customers had no experienced staff and relied on interimbase for over 7 months before the right candidate came into place. Another imported skilled and experienced staff from abroad and the next hired skilled unexperienced staff, allowing them to grow on the job and train them externally (partly by our consultants) on and off the job. Ideally you have one or more skilled employees present who can do some incremental improvements, know how the process should function and how various paramaters can influence the end result. On a day to day operation, the company should be able to manage themselves.
A next thing to consider is maintance and cleaning: the more time you spend on them you more money you loose; however you can’t do without them as well. There are nowadays a lot of CIP (Clean in Place) Solutions; this however brings added costs and sometimes take in time longer than done manually in some cases. When in discussion with a equipment manufacturer on this topic, you should ask for demonstrations: let them show if the machinery is indeed easy to dismount/ clean/ maintain/ etc. One customer bought a CIP installatation for their depositors and their mixing system, they could move it from one machine to the other. However by the time the equipment was installed, filled and running they could have also placed it into the cleaning area, pump/ deposit the pipes clean and hose it down. This took 30-45 minutes, and the CIP too at least 60-75 minutes. They ended up doing their last cleaning session of the week with the CIP installation and all the rest manually; this was however not why the’ve bought it!
The size of the building is partly a function of the production lines placed in them, but this is only true when you have to build the building. In existing buildings the dimensions will limit the length and height of the line; this might imply extra costs for odd shaped dimensions or very tight working spaces for the staff.
When being able to start in a large space or even having to build the factory a lot is possible; however the required shelf life, the allowance of certain ingredients in the product formulation can be codetermining how the building should be designed and what kind of system should be in place for controlling the climate within the factory. To understand this, you as a future business owner should know that there are factors which can oxydize ingredients and can cause off-flavours like rancidity. Next to that, every product has a relative humidity, called ERH, or Aw, meaning wateractivity. This shouldn’t be confused with moisture as the ERH is only the so-called free water part of total moisture expressed in a concentration. Better it is compare with the air humidity, and realising that the ERH of your product is striving to reach an equilibrium with its surrounding air humidity. It therefore can happen that products with a low Aw and high moisture, get even higher when the product next to it has high Aw and low moisture: moisture tends to move from high concentration to low concentration and not from high moisture to low moisture. To understand further the concept of Aw/ ERH it is important to know that it is an indicator for Mould Free Shelf Life in a function of storage temperature and therefore important to control in certain products and processes.
The for the actual structure of the building you will have various choices to make: concrete flooring and walls, partitioning wall systems, etc. The most important part of this would be how much work is it to keep it clean and tidy? Due to new techniques we established on alle the ceilings and walls of our test bakery a nano coating, making that all dirt, moisture based fluids wouldn’t stick on them. Furthermore: by applying first a special coating and finishing it off with the same nanocoating: cleaning the floor is a piece of cake and do not cost excessive time or the use of a lot of cleaning water (waste reduction). However when at risk that the floor and walls might be damaged: the coating will be damaged as well and be then less effective; but the cost for applying it per m2 are cheaper than applying paint (approximately 50% cheaper)!
When moving to designing the factory layout one needs to place the production line in the centre and give thought on how the actual process and materials flow will be:
Due to the nature of the products you will produce, the quality systems in place and the ontop requirements of certain customers, you will also now if there is need for so called high care areas, which require extra changing and hygiene areas and procedures. If these are not required it still might be wise to be informed about them, as they have interesting principles which can be applied in general practice. Depending on the climate, the ERH of the product and the type of packaging you might extend by these practices the shelf life without adding antioxidants, acidifiers and preservatives.
Products like maria biscuits, tea biscuits, crackers and shortbread start in the formulation with low amounts of moisture and due to baking losses, products have moisture of less than 5% and ERH of around 0,40 or lower. These products have an important dough development stage during mixing where a certain temperature needs to be reached. In countries with extreme hot or cold conditions it might be wise to control the temperature of this area. Sometimes after mixing these products undergo a fermentation time to allow conversions to take place or enzymes do their work. This area is often temperature and humidity controlled.
Moving towards dough processing, the control of temperature and humidity are often of less importance and often seen that oven, cooling and even packaging are in the same room. Sometimes packaging and/or cooling areas are separated to improve control of product quality or improve working conditions for workers. When applying chocolate or a compound as a coating to the product, separation is required to allow minimal influence into the cooling tunnel and stimulate crystallisation of the chocolate.
These products have shelf lives of around 4 months to 1 year and contain between 5% and 20% moisture. Sometimes products are formulated so they can be in this range, like various batters (e.g. madeira cakes, sponges, swiss rolls) or are sometimes the more complex products like filled (shortcrust) pies, puff pastries with however low Aw fillings or compounds/ coatings. These production areas might have a controlled dough processing & mixing area, to allow processes like sheeting or laminating to be controlled. Baking and Cooling is often done in the same area and in the packaging area a space for coating and if needed extra cooling is provided.
These products are generally cakes, pastries and fruit filled products and are often without any additional preservating hurdles only days to weeks preservable. By applying techniques of high care one could minimise the risks of contamination after baking. The start is right after the oven, isolating the heat and moisture in an oven area, where dough or batter processing might take place but that could be separated. The cooling area has an overpressure opposite the ovenroom and adjoining rooms, preventing any moisture, dust or other impurities to travel to the cooling area. The air of the cooling area is sometimes airconditioned, but definitely filtered. Airconditioning might cause side effects, like increased staling or condensation onto products. Condensation onto products provide a local elevated ERH and therefore reducing the potential shelf life.
Filtering or airallowing prevents airborne pollution (like pollen, bacteria, etc) to attach themselves to the products. A next step can be made my supplying and discharging air on various airspeeds. In our previous business we pushed in a very low speed a high througpout of air: 20.000 m3/450 kg/hr. By ingeniously compressing and decompressing air we were able to cool down product to an acceptable 20-25ºC during summertime.
The packaging area is also having an overpressure, but a little lower that the cooling area; preventing any dust or other pollution moving towards the packaging and thus the product. Sometimes an oxygen scavenger or MAP is applied as an extra security for controlling the shelf life, even when other agents are used to prolong the shelf life. When required the dough processing and mixing area is also controlled as described in the previous subjects.
In our next article we will focus into more detail on the choices to make regarding baking, cooling and packaging.