You could say that a baker’s job is never done until they have produced a great product, delivered it in pristine condition and made it so enjoyable that shoppers come back for more. Reputation is all to the smallest craft baker or the biggest bakery food manufacturer. But it is only as good as your last delivery.
Along the way, the baker has other decisions to make: which ingredients to choose, which equipment? And with ovens, often ’off the shelf’ options won’t do. The oven might not fit, have enough racks or the space might be too tall, small, wide or large.
It’s the sort of challenge that Bob Petrie, MD, and Ian Wallace, sales and marketing director, of Double D Food Engineering really enjoy, because ’tailor-made’ rack and continuous ovens are precisely what they do. They make complete in-line bakery solutions for bread and fermented goods, confectionery, biscuits, pie and savoury products. Now, however, there is a new dimension. Under its new parent company JBT FoodTech, Double D can now supply equipment suitable for each stage of the baking process, from proving and baking to chilling and freezing.
Ovens and retarder-provers have been made at Double D for over 30 years, with Revorack rack ovens and Revoband continuous ovens building up a loyal customer base. But a couple of years ago, Double D’s owner retired and sold the firm to a new company, run by Bob Petrie, a qualified engineer and a company director.
Then, out of the blue, a phone call came from an American company, wanting a foothold in the UK, instead of just distribution. This was JBT (John Bean Technologies), which owns Frigoscandia freezing technology. The fit was just right so JBT became the new owner of Double D.
But there is more to it than that. JBT has access to international markets, with sales and service offices worldwide. Customers include continuous oven bakery clients, so it is good news for Double D. In return, Double D has a reputation for quality, access to a UK customer base, the ability to custom-build ovens and competitive pricing in rack, linear and batch ovens. Now, it also has the opportunity to supply emerging markets. A neat fit.
Most British customers will know Ian Wallace, who has been sales and marketing director of Double D for 30 years. He remembers British Baker profiling the firm 20 years ago for its 10th anniversary. "It’s good to see you back," he says in welcome, as he and Bob Petrie take me through the recent changes.
The company is still located in Broxburn, conveniently close to Edinburgh airport, and has no plans to move. It manufactures and distributes throughout the UK and Ireland. In fact, nearly 70% of all business is outside Scotland.
Petrie says the fact the company also make cookers for the meat and fish industries has driven very high CIP (cleaning in place) standards, which is especially important in the manufacture of topped products, such as garlic breads or flatbreads made with cheese or olive oil. The advantage of joining with JBT’s Frigoscandia is that stacking belts can be added to the offer, so that one continuous retarding-proving, baking, stacking, cooling and freezing line can be installed or any combination of the same.
Petrie says: "We start with ’what does the customer want?’ and are prepared for the unconventional. We visit the site and the permutations are limitless: pillars in awkward places, heat exchangers on top. We buy the raw materials, then manufacture and assemble the ovens right here at Broxburn, whether the requirement is for a craft or industrial rack oven or a tunnel oven. Recent large installations we are proud of include a 3.6m quiche oven at Greencore. Other customers include Northern Foods, Bakkavör, Maple Leaf and leading supermarkets."
Just as important as the installation is the help needed in an emergency or for a repair. "We have engineers nationwide," says Petrie. "Customers can log in to their global positioning system and know precisely how far away they are from a visit." He says 95% of breakdowns can be righted on the first visit and most within 24 hours.
Service apparently comes with more than a smile and an engineer. The reception desk at Broxburn is also trained to take orders for spare parts and this is relayed directly to stores for immediate despatch. But before an order is ever placed, customers may want to visit Double D’s manufacturing site, which has a purpose-built technology centre featuring every piece of kit they sell. This includes proving, chilling and baking, as well as Frigoscandia’s freezing equipment, with both conventional freezing and impingement, which works particularly well with flatbreads or low-density products.
So what changes has Petrie enacted under the new ownership, not forgetting the volatile economy? "We have changed from being very specification-conscious to more price-conscious," he says. "Ovens are the same quality, but we felt they were over-specified. We have responded by being more market-led than function-led."
"Nowadays, customers want reasonably priced, energy-efficient ovens that will perform reliably," he says, adding: "We are introducing energy-saving devices, limbo modes and flexible baking areas."
"Customers appreciate that what we do we do properly," adds Wallace. It’s a reputation the firm expects to hold on to for the next 30 years.