Birds supplies its 53 shops with more than 15 varieties of bread from its Ascot Drive bakery. Production stops at 3am on Saturday mornings and starts up again at 6pm on Sunday evenings, so installing new equipment is a challenge in time management.

Having ordered its new bread line from Daub, company chairman Patrick Bird wanted everything up and running by 6pm on the Sunday evening, otherwise his shops would have no fresh bread on the Monday. Equally important to Bird was that the company’s product quality was not compromised at any stage.

Discussions at BIE took place with Benier UK, part of the Kaak Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of bakery equipment. The last time that Birds had changed its bread plant was back in 1976, when it had also elected to buy equipment from the Milton Keynes-based company.

Now, the challenge was to design, build and test a divider, a conical rounder, an intermediate prover, a pre-former and a moulder - and then connect and install and commission the lot during a 39-hour period, while ripping out the old system at the same time.

"It was a challenge to say the least," admits Benier UK’s mana- ging director David Marsh. "But I had every confidence that the kit would be well-built and tested before the factory released it. Benier has a strict policy that nothing leaves its premises until its engineers sign it off - and they only do that when they are ready. The key was installation and we spent the best part of three months planning that with Birds."

Design offers

Birds was offered three separate designs using Benier’s state-of-the-art equipment. The company went for the option that made best use of space and resources. They plumped for four major plant items:

l A dough divider - the Dough Assist Major, a multiple pocket divider that has an adjustable suction-volume and regressive springs for the suction piston and knife to enable the dough to be divided gently and accurately. Birds chose the ’plus’ version, which has a PLC control with touchscreen display. The speed of the outfeed conveyor can be adjusted by frequency drive and it provides read-outs for the capacity, weight reference indication and number of dough pieces produced. Its capacity is between 420 and 6,000 pieces per hour depending on the pocket configuration, while weight range covers from 50-2,300g. Birds runs at 2,000 pieces per hour with weights between 450 and 1,200g.

l A rounder - Birds selected the Benier All Round, a rounder that can round almost every dough, important to the company because of the number of lines it offers. It can be used for pizza dough balls and soft and delicate doughs. It offers a capacity of up to 4,500 units per hour ranging from 100- 1,200g.

l A first prover - Benier provers are built by means of a modular system using high-quality materials. Selection can be made between a 6, 8 or 12-part swing design. Birds opted for the 12-part swing design. Depending on the selected configuration, the residence time can be variable with certain types. In every system, the defined position of the dough piece in the prover pocket is used to transfer the dough to the next process in the correct position. When the dough pieces leave the prover in succession, they can be transferred directly from the prover to the next process. A conveyor belt is able to pick up several balls of dough simultaneously. From the prover, distribution can take place via optional 1, 2 or 3 conveyors.

l And a moulder - Birds chose the Benier MS500, which is suitable for craft bakeries and semi-industrial dough processing systems. The MS500 consists of an in-feed system, moulder head, moulding belt and pressure board and a depositing unit. A pre-former was added to ensure the dough pieces are centralised before arriving at the curling chain and pressure board.

Once moulded the bread goes into Birds’ existing static provers and then into the Daub Thermoroll Ovens - again supplied by Benier UK - which, due to their unique heating system have enabled Birds to reduce its baking energy costs by up to 25%.

In addition to designing and building the kit, Benier had to ensure that it was fully installed and worked with existing equipment such as mixers and standing provers. It all had to be joined together!

Project management

The project was led by Patrick Bird himself, with day-to-day control under Birds’ engineer Kevin Cross. Benier UK had three of its British engineers - Giles Etiene, Steve Astin and Steve Spence - who were joined by Richard Pols from Benier’s Netherlands offices. Leading the project for Benier was sales manager Paul Weston, who was involved from design to commissioning.

"We managed to get the entire plant installed and commissioned on time," says David Marsh. "Of course, there was the slight problem that the staff had never used it before and didn’t know how to operate it. This is where Paul Weston started to earn his money."

It was Weston’s job, along with the team, to spend the next couple of evenings not only getting the bread out on time but also to train the night shift as they went along. Paul has had a wealth of experience in the baking industry as both an ingredients and equipment supplier, but he is also a fully trained baker having served his apprenticeship with Frank Starkey in Birmingham, where they serviced six shops from a central bakery.

"The staff were a little hesitant at the start," says Weston. "After all, the previous Benier bread plant had been there longer than all of them. I’m pleased to report that we got all 15 lines for all 53 shops out and the shift ended at 2.30am on the Monday - only 30 minutes later than usual.

"We cleaned it down so well that, when Patrick Bird arrived early on the Monday morning, he was convinced that we had actually failed to commission it! Mind you, had that been the case, he might have been on the receiving end of a telephone call in the very early hours.

"I am delighted at how well the project went. Thirty-nine hours was a tight timetable and I’m pleased that Patrick Bird not only had the confidence that we could design the bread line that he wanted, but he also trusted us to install it over the weekend. It was a tremendous amount of faith. It would have been disastrous if his 53 shops had not received any bread deliveries on that Monday morning.

And the final word from Patrick Bird: "The project went well from start to finish. We have worked with Benier over many years and they have always done a professional job, in addition to producing excellent equipment. Let’s hope we get the same 30 years excellent service out of this kit as we did from the previous one they supplied."


=== The countdown ===

Day 1: planning

1pm meeting on-site to carry out a full health and safety risk analysis. Final check that all kit had arrived.

Day 2: Saturday

3am bakery shift ends.

6am team arrives and starts to remove old prover. This takes a total of seven hours.

9am team starts to assemble the new prover.

1pm rest of equipment starts to go into place.

4pm work starts on the wiring.

8pm wiring complete and team end 14-hour shift.

Day 3: Sunday

6am work continues on installing moulder and other kit.

3pm dry commissioning begins.

4pm installation complete and wet commissioning begins.

6pm work complete - and night shift starts.