Business and Operations
December 3, 2007 By Jane Ayer
Representatives for three different equipment companies chat about trends, technology and offer tips on purchasing equipment.
They’re the biggest purchase you’ll ever make for your bakery. Without the right pieces, you can't continue doing what you do. Choose the wrong piece and you’ll find yourself dealing with constant repairs and repeated downtime. Choose the right piece and you’ll be making a sound investment that could grow your business and just make your life easier in general. Equipment: you need it. Whether you’re a baker in a tiny small-town business or a baker in a wholesale business that produces thousands of pieces of bread a day, you need equipment. And you need equipment that is reliable, fairly easy to operate, and easy to maintain.
We spoke with three different Canadian-based bakery equipment companies to find out about new trends and new technologies, and to ask what advice they offer for that crucial moment when you have to decide exactly what equipment to purchase.
All Bake Equipment Inc.
Sean Savage is the owner of All Bake Equipment Inc., a year-old company based in Mississauga, Ontario. He has 16 years of experience in the baking industry, most of it earned working with the bakery equipment supply company started by his father (Savage launched All Bake after his father passed away). All Bake specializes in a mix of old and used equipment. The used equipment is completely factory rebuilt and comes with a six-month warranty. One of All Bake’s newest and biggest customers is COBS Bread, the Australian-based company that made a foray into Canada about three years ago and just recently opened its newest location in Toronto (its first in Ontario) – All Bake, working in partnership with R.F. Bakery Equipment, helped set up and install the equipment at the Bayview Ave. store. Savage says All Bake can help bakeries that need something as small as a 12-quart mixer to bakeries who need to mix 2,600 pounds of dough.
What trends do you see in bakery equipment?
Basically the trends haven’t changed a great deal. It goes through waves in terms of what people are looking for. Obviously when people were getting into bagels they were looking for bagel equipment. Now with artisan breads a lot of people are looking for bread moulders. It really depends on what the hot product of the moment is.
What is the hot product right now?
Breads with a high nutrition factor, and artisan breads are very popular right now.
Has the technology or design of the equipment changed much?
Not really. The machines are certainly more sophisticated. In terms of controls, digital controls give the user more control for each product, and offer ease of use, preventing the operator from making mistakes because everything's all preprogrammed.
Has pricing changed much?
The pricing hasn’t changed too much, although new equipment has gone up slightly. The older the machine, the lower the value and also the worse the condition of the equipment, especially if it’s not cleaned on a regular basis – that really lessens the value.
What advice do you have for someone looking to buy equipment?
Shop around and stay, for the most part, with European or North American equipment. It can often be difficult to source the parts for anything that’s not European or North American.
G. Cinelli-Esperia Corporation
Albert Cinelli is the sales director of G. Cinelli-Esperia Corporation, the company started by his father Guido in the 1970s. The Woodbridge, Ontario, business remains a family affair: not only is Guido still involved in the business, but so are Albert’s brother and two sisters. Albert Cinelli says the company works with anyone from the corner bakery to large, national corporations. The company designs, manufactures and sells its own equipment, occasionally selling used equipment (usually its own brand). Besides selling everything from fully automated bakery lines to chocolate tempering machines, G. Cinelli-Esperia also offers advice and consultation on such things as bakery layout (ensuring an efficient production and retail area) and staff training. Cinelli says the business’ client base ranges from Alaska to New Zealand to Siberia and many points in between.
What trends do you see in bakery equipment?
Bakers are looking for well-made equipment that will definitely reduce labour needs. I think that’s the main focus. Ingredient costs keep going up and companies are finding that it’s generally beyond their control. They can’t control the cost of commodities, but what they have to get a handle on is the labour to produce their products.
Where do your new product ideas come from?
Basically new products are sparked by demand, by needs we see in the marketplace. We’ve developed programmable panels for mixers and ovens so you can input specific recipes. The plant manager can input parameters for specific products, thus eliminating the need for a trained baker. It means they can hire part-time help or less skilled employees and lower the cost of labour. We’re the first to offer a 500-program capacity interface for the rack oven and spiral mixer – each program can have up to seven distinct steps. For example, when Sobey’s out West, using bases and mixes, buys one of our rack ovens, we download the required programs here so that when the equipment lands in Moose Jaw, Sask., it’s the same program being used when it lands in Surrey, B.C., with a repeatable, consistent result. They don’t have to spend money on high-cost labour to get that done.
The other thing is energy efficiency, especially with gas prices going up. Our ovens are made with refractory materials to maintain heat. A brick-lined baking chamber acts like a heat sponge, absorbing the heat, which means the burner works less and it uses less gas.
It’s also geography that drives the need for a better piece of equipment. Canadian wheat is reputed as being the best in the world because of its high protein content. If we take a spiral mixer as an example, it endures more stress mixing Canadian flour because it’s tougher to mix. We build mixers to cope with such environmental factors.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to buy bakery equipment?
Ask yourself what will this piece of equipment do for your bottom line? If the equipment will reduce labour costs and increase productivity, then it’s a sound business decision.
R.F. Bakery Equipment Systems
Ross McMillan is sales manager for R.F. Bakery Equipment, a British Columbia-based company that launched operations in the ’60s. The company supplies new equipment, refurbishes and sells used equipment and also custom manufactures such things as conveyors and conveying equipment. Most of the equipment the company distributes is imported from Europe. The company’s client base is primarily made up of medium to larger wholesale bakeries in Western Canada, although its work with COBS Bread has brought the company recent experience in the world of retail. Most of the customer base is between Vancouver and Thunder Bay, with clients on the custom manufacturing side of things throughout the U.S.
What trends do you see in bakery equipment?
Certainly a renewed emphasis, not just from COBS but from others, on the retail side of things. There’s a renewed emphasis on retail scratch baking, which has been somewhat on the wane in Western Canada for the better part of a decade. Maybe COBS got the ball rolling, but a lot of people are starting to follow suit in that area. They’re seeing that a small retail business featuring hot bread as a business model is a valid way to go.
Also on the retail side of things, because of the advent of scratch baking, bakeries are looking for bread handling equipment, mixers, moulders, hydraulic dividers. While people are looking at doing more scratch baking, they’re also looking to take the skill level out of the equation. Finding skilled workers is a greater challenge, so a lot more machinery has programmable controls with 200, 300 or 400 recipe resets and various other things that can be preprogrammed, controlled and menu-driven by a less sophisticated operator.
On the wholesale side of things, the trend continues with the production of frozen products. Some of our customers who have traditionally been fresh operations are gravitating towards frozen dough purely from a logistics standpoint. For the wholesale guys who are moving into more frozen products, they’re looking at bigger pieces of production equipment with which they can do longer production runs that will ultimately make them more efficient on an hourly basis. Having said that, there is also a greater demand for an increased variety of product as a result of the foodservice industry looking for a greater variety of product.
Currently, the demands of the baking industry far outstrip the technology – the technology has some catching up to do. There are certain things that people want that aren’t available in an affordable package. Rondo has come out with the Smartline product line for doing smaller production, but things still need to get smaller. Rheon is the same, they continue to make smaller and smaller equipment and they need to get smaller still. The big manufacturers are looking at the big lines and looking at how to make smaller ones that the mid-size to small wholesale baker can use, and not break the bank in purchasing it, while still being robust enough to use it day in and day out.
What advice do you offer to someone looking to purchase bakery equipment?
Think about what you need to purchase and do it in a modular, sustainable way. There’s huge demand on businesses to grow. Look at the piece of equipment that will give you the greatest payback and plan purchases around those pieces of equipment – you don’t buy them all at once because you can’t afford to. If you’re looking to get onto the bread route then buy a mixer that gives you the flexibility to grow. Buy an oven that’s modular so you can add decks to it down the road. Buy a reversible sheeter that’s going to give you a reasonable amount of growth going forward. People continue to shortchange themselves by buying based on price. You’ve got to think in modular, scaleable terms when purchasing.
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