World Class Peration

by Dan Malovany
By increasing communication and giving line workers a say in how the company operates, Grecian Delight has seen dramatic improvements in production and efficiency.
When it comes to production, many wholesale bakers rely on good manufacturing practices (GMPs) or Total Quality Management (TQM) to maximize efficiencies and guarantee food safety. Grecian Delight has gone one step further with a management program called World Class Enterprise (WCE).
Utilizing tools developed by Toyota, WCE relies on training and regular meetings with employees to involve them in improving the process. Although it’s highly popular in many industries, WCE is a relatively new management concept for food producers, says Mike Pietka, bakery manager. In fact, Grecian Delight was one of the first mid-market food companies to employ the practice.
Briefly, here’s how it works. Every day before each shift, supervisors conduct a five-minute huddle to discuss the day’s work schedule and suggest ways to do their jobs more efficiently. Suggestions are then written on easels located on the production floor.
“WCE is more of a refinement of GMPs, TQM and other practices,” Pietka says. “It relies more on your employees for ideas, and they can tell you what they need. You just have to make sure they have their tools out there.”
Sometimes, the huddle focuses on a specific topic. Once a week, for example, the employees and their supervisors discuss food safety. Each month, Grecian Delight also has a town hall meeting with all employees and top management.
“They will tell you what they need. They probably know their jobs better than anybody in here,” Pietka says. “They have the right to say what they want to say, and we let them say it. They can ask us whatever questions they have.”
In order for WCE to work, the key is for management to respond quickly to employees’ requests and concerns. For Grecian Delight, that usually means that managers must reply in 24 hours or less.
“The whole concept is to keep it simple and bring ideas into fruition,” Pietka explains.
By opening the lines of communication, the various segments of the operation, such as maintenance, production and sanitation, are better coordinated.
“At first, it took a little convincing,” Pietka recalls. “They were shy and used to being managed and told what to do. Once given a chance to have a voice, employees are now telling us what needs to be done.”
Two years ago, for example, it took an hour on some lines to make a changeover. As a result, Grecian Delight could only make three to four changeovers a day on each line. Now, it takes about only five minutes to make a switch, allowing the bakery to make an average of 11 changeovers a day.
As a result, the plant can respond more quickly to its customers needs without carrying a large load of inventory.
“Your inventory costs you money,” Pietka says. “The best bet is to make it as your customers order it. That makes you more efficient. Your efficiencies are your people, and maximizing the speed of your lines to improve capacity.”
Another WCE-influenced change involved placing instructions on how to adjust a case erector machine in English and Spanish. In addition to streamlining production and maintenance, it also addresses a safety issue to ensure it’s done properly.
Producing Pitas Properly
At the 200,000-sq.-ft. plant, which houses three pita lines, 34 full-time employees work in the bakery on two 10-hour shifts four days a week. On average, the operation produces about 20,000 lb. of product per shift per line.
Inside the production area, Line 1 cranks out 6-, 7-, and 9-in. pita wraps. Line 2 produces pita pockets and chips. Line 3 makes the popular 6- and 7-in. wraps.
Under its Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) system, ingredient receiving, tracking and handling provide the foundation for food safety in the operation. In fact, Grecian Delight has a full-time supervisor dedicated to logging and tracking ingredient lot numbers, reviewing and filing certificates of analysis, and overseeing offsite tests of meats and dairy ingredients for microbiological and pathogen issues. The goal is to eliminate any allergen or other food safety issues.
“We felt we needed one person dedicated to the warehouse area in the ingredient side of things to make sure that we had one person who’s accountable for traceability,” says Mary Funteas, director of quality assurance. “We have the ability to track any ingredient through the system in a half hour.”
In addition to being HACCP certified, the food manufacturing facility is inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of its meat operations.
The bakery has two 100,000-lb. white flour silos and one 100,000-lb. wheat silo. The company also has bulk vegetable oil tanks. Flour is pneumatically transferred, sifted and transported to one of its spiral mixers. Pietka, however, likes the smaller spiral mixer setup because it provides more flexibility.
“It allows us to swing back and forth between products more quickly and easily,” he says.
Next to the line of mixers, an operator is in charge of premixing minor and micro ingredients. Each of the eight bins has a separate, color-coded scoop for each different ingredient.
A computerized scale, which is accurate up to 0.1 oz., monitors the entire process. As the operator manually scales each ingredient, the computer screen remains red until the proper amount is added. If too much or too little goes into the batch, the computer won’t let the operator go to the next step. If too much is added, a supervisor then must use a specific code to unlock the computer, “abort” the batch and start over, Funteas says.
After the batch is mixed, the bowls are elevated up to a hopper on each line. Production on all three lines is similar. The dough is extruded and reduced to an initial 1.5-in. sheet. On Line 3, there are three reduction stages, which reduce the sheet down to 1.0 mm. Lines 1 and 2 have four reduction stations that allow Grecian Delight to produce a thinner sheet. Between each station is a flour duster. The company uses a variety of different flours, depending on the product type, customer preferences or consumer tastes in a specific market.
After passing under a roll cutter, which creates the circular pieces, any scrap is discarded to the side while the dough pieces travel to an eight-level proofer at 100°F and 30% humidity. The dough pieces flip back and forth as they travel down the levels in this system.
On the pita wrap lines, the pieces travel under a sprayer that applies vegetable oil, which prevents the product from puffing up too much. On the pita pocket line, no oil is applied because the company wants the product to puff up for easy cutting and slicing.
Pitas typically bake at between 750°F and 900°F before cooling for 20-25 minutes. Spotters at the end of the cooler remove pitas that have large or non-uniform bubbles or do not fit the proper specifications for the products.
After cooling, the pita wraps travel to an aligner, stacker and bagger/closer. Following metal detection and check-weighing, the cases are formed automatically, but the product is manually loaded into the cases. A bar code is assigned to each case, allowing the company to track production from ingredient handling to freezing.
Each hour, the QA department takes samples from the line and scores them. They check for weight, color, texture, pliability and other standards.
Pallets of products are stored in a large freezer. Although meats and sauces have up to a five-day hold for microbiological testing, fresh pitas can be shipped via common carrier to retail and foodservice customers within hours of production.
For Grecian Delight, meeting customers’ changing needs is an ongoing process. Besides, it is what’s expected from a World Class Enterprise.