Meeting and answering the demands of its customers has seen continuous investment in plant, equipment and people at Birds (Derby)’s central bakery. The bakery company has always had one simple aim - to make a product that is as fresh as possible. It is a philosophy that bakery manager Gary Entwistle recalls nearly caught him out, back in Christmas 2005. "All had gone to plan until the final shift," he says. "In order to achieve the freshness we promise and deliver to our customers, we left the production of cobs as late as possible in that final shift. Seven hours before the shift was due to end, we had a problem with the roll plant, which took two hours to remedy."

Cobs (or bread rolls) account for around 18% of the Birds’ turnover. Entwistle spoke to managing director Patrick Bird about possible solutions and returned from the Christmas break to find that the MD had ordered a completely new industrial roll plant from Konig’s UK distributor European Process Plant (EPP). The senior team at Birds scours Europe, attending all the major European exhibitions to look at machinery, and insists on visiting Continental craft businesses to see it working in the heat of the bakery.

Entwistle explains: "Of all the roll plant we saw, Konig’s build quality and robustness caught our eye and it is certainly fit-for-purpose."

Entwistle admits that, for a 49-shop retail craft bakery business the size of Birds, having £500,000 invested in roll plant is a "bit of a luxury". The new roll plant was delivered on 11 December last year and commissioning began just three days later. "We immediately commissioned four major products with the minimum of fuss and this gave us a major boost to efficiency and effectiveness going into Christmas week 2006. The remainder of our products were then commissioned early in January this year," says Entwistle.

In choosing the new roll plant, Birds took its health and safety manager, engineering manager and two operatives to Konig’s factory in Austria. As a result, an additional guard was fitted and the Austrian company improved accessibility on the machine, making it much easier to clean.

"What we have found most useful are measurement guides on the spreader bands and that Konig has taken into account the manual loading and unloading of trays, making the working height slightly higher at the depanning stage on the new machine."

Based in Epsom, Surrey, EPP has installed and maintained several pieces of equipment at Birds, including mixers, a pie and tart line and a large doughnut fryer. The new six-pocket head roll plant has 800mm-wide pockets in the resting chamber. The weight range on the new Konig is 35-135g and, as the machine can handle very different doughs, a wide range of bakery goods can be produced on the new plant.

At 50 strokes per minute, six products across, the new Konig produces dinner rolls with a scale weight of 35g at a rate of 18,000 units an hour. The firm is looking to develop an XXL long moulded sandwich roll with a scale weight of 110g and, at 35 strokes a minute, three across, the new Konig roll plant can produce 6,300 units an hour. n