A driver allegedly fled an accident in Greenwich, Conn., before striking three parked cars in Port Chester, but told police she didn't realize it when they later found her sitting in her car, bleeding from the ...
So much can happen in three years. For Neri’s Bakery Products, Port Chester, NY, production and physical plant expansion have more than doubled output compared with three years ago, when Baking & Snack first visited the company. While management continues its philosophy of quality, consistency, flexibility and adaptability for its customers, general consumption increases and economic conditions have led to astonishing growth. As a family company, the Neris had two choices of running their business in the competitive world: autocratic or democratic. Wisely, they chose democratic. "We have a cohesive group focused on success, teamwork, flexibility and participation," Bob and Anthony Neri noted collectively. "There is no one person better than another here, and that goes from Dominick to every production employee on the line," added Domenick Cicatelli, vice-president operations. Family influence includes Dominick Neri, president and c.e.o.; his brother Paul, vice-president; Sal Neri, director of pastry production; Sandro Neri, night shift supervisor; Bob Neri, vice-president sales and marketing; and Dominick’s son Anthony, general manager and the fourth generation to join the company. Other core management includes Mr. Cicatelli and Dago Santos, senior supervisor, who is also in charge of employee orientation and training — employment has nearly tripled from 60 employees to 170 in the past three years.
So much can happen in three years. For Neri’s Bakery Products, Port Chester, NY, production and physical plant expansion have more than doubled output compared with three years ago, when Baking & Snack first visited the company. While management continues its philosophy of quality, consistency, flexibility and adaptability for its customers, general consumption increases and economic conditions have led to astonishing growth.
As a family company, the Neris had two choices of running their business in the competitive world: autocratic or democratic. Wisely, they chose democratic. "We have a cohesive group focused on success, teamwork, flexibility and participation," Bob and Anthony Neri noted collectively. "There is no one person better than another here, and that goes from Dominick to every production employee on the line," added Domenick Cicatelli, vice-president operations.
Family influence includes Dominick Neri, president and c.e.o.; his brother Paul, vice-president; Sal Neri, director of pastry production; Sandro Neri, night shift supervisor; Bob Neri, vice-president sales and marketing; and Dominick’s son Anthony, general manager and the fourth generation to join the company. Other core management includes Mr. Cicatelli and Dago Santos, senior supervisor, who is also in charge of employee orientation and training — employment has nearly tripled from 60 employees to 170 in the past three years.
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS. With the good also comes challenge. In the past three years, the economy has deteriorated, commodity prices have skyrocketed and fuel costs have more than doubled. "There’s no fighting the markets," Dominick Neri said. "You have to deal with it one way or another. Our customer base will bear only a small price increase. The rest has to come from creative strategies and initiatives."
Mr. Cicatelli spearheaded these efforts with input from everyone in the plant. "We weren’t going to skimp on quality and knew we had to save in other ways such as waste, labor and conservation of energy to offset commodity increases," he said. "We implemented some creative strategies.
"We used to generate product waste by the truckload — cripples, product that fell on the floor or would be off-spec," Mr. Cicatelli continued. "Through added controls, education and conscientious awareness and employee input, we reduced product and packaging waste by 75%. It was a huge savings with very little capital outlay."
"The biggest thing was education," added Mr. Santos. "We made sure employees were aware of the causes of waste. We solicited, listened and implemented their suggestions. Some were very simple such as guides on conveyors; others increased preventive maintenance (PM) schedules. It ran the gamut."
Looking at environmental issues and creative ways to reduce costs, Mr. Cicatelli partnered with Public Energy Solutions (PES), Englewood, NJ, in cooperation with its local Con Edison utility supplier and qualified for its watt-reduction program. "We replaced more than 400 460-watt metal halide fixtures with 180-watt fluorescent reflective lighting throughout the plant," Mr. Cicatelli said. "It cut wattage by more than 50%, and all use electronic ballasts so there is no warm-up time. Price tag for the project was more than $40,000 of which Neri’s contribution was $4,000."
The company also replaced its backup 1,000-amp generator with a 2,000-amp (1,025-kwh) unit, which can run the entire operation and still have power capacity. "We are under the voluntary energy shutoff plan with Con Edison and receive rebates for having the generator," Mr. Cicatelli said. "This is especially important in the summer if the utility needs additional power. They give us 24 hours notice, and we switch over to the generator. "
The company admits the unit is almost four times what it needs at the moment, but they are ready for any future expansion.
Other strategies included changing its electric meter to time-stamp usage every 30 minutes so the company now pays on-peak and off-peak rates. "We also broker our electricity and gas, which gets us the best price," Mr. Cicatelli said. "The current gas price is about $1.40 a therm. We are paying roughly $1.08. Con Edison likes this. It would rather be the distributor. We buy through a broker direct to a producer and use the utility company for power transfer only."
Neri’s is in the process of converting its refrigeration system from Freon to glycol and qualified for a grant through PES, who will meter energy usage prior to the changeover, then again upon completion and pay Neri’s $700 for every kilowatt-hour saved.
The plant also captures heat coming off its refrigeration system and pumps that heat back into loading dock areas. It takes only a small amount of electricity to run the fans but the plant gains tremendous savings on heaters and lamps, and it is just as comfortable for employees. "And with the positive air pressure we no longer have the cold air pouring through the dock area in the winter," Mr. Cicatelli added. "It’s free heat; no oil or gas required."
"All these ideas and initiatives save us money and help offset the increases we are seeing in commodities," Dominick Neri stated. "We estimate that our total savings is roughly $500,000 annually. We saved $70,000 from the lighting alone."
WISE SPENDING. In the past year, Neri’s spent $2 million on equipment and upgrades alone, not including construction costs for its new muffin top production. "We installed new sugar and oil tanks that hold 6,000 lb each," Mr. Cicatelli said. "Two 100,000-lb capacity flour tanks from Pfening, one for white and one for whole-wheat, are set to be installed by the end of July along with a new Pfening sifter."
The company has two production buildings of 70,000 and 79,000 sq ft with a single-story structure sandwiched in between. Currently, the bread building, which also produces muffin tops and square bagels, has one 130,000-lb-capacity flour tank. The second building, solely producing bagels, has two white flour tanks of 168,000 lb each and a 75,000-lb-capacity whole-wheat tank. Bread products include Kaiser, club rolls, hero’s, French and Italian breads. Specialty breads such as twisted 6-ft loaves are baked in an Empire Mundialle deck oven with three shelves. Neri’s does not produce pan bread.
The company started producing corn muffin tops (marketed as corn toasties) about 18 months ago, taking over space occupied by Neri’s corporate offices. "A customer was looking for someone to produce the product, and we had the space available," Dominick Neri said. "We decided to do it, simple as that. It was a good idea, good product and good market potential, and it helps us diversify as well."
"Actually we didn’t have the physical space at the time," Bob Neri countered. "Within the span of three weeks, we moved our entire office department — computers, phones, wiring, furniture, everything that makes the operation run — to temporary quarters downstairs. During those weeks, we also refurbished the vacated 15,000-sq-ft space for muffin production."
The company worked 24/7 those three weeks to make the transition. It brought in equipment — mixers, depositors, ovens, trays, racks, packaging equipment. And all of it was refurbished on-site. The first order was shipped three weeks after it started the project. "It was incredible," Bob Neri said. "Like ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ on an industrial scale."
Equipment to produce the muffin tops includes a new depositor from Unifiller. Five Revent rack ovens, a pan washer and packaging equipment were brought in from another bakery. The Unifiller depositor has the flexibility to add inclusions such as fruit pieces, chocolate chips, etc. "We are looking at adding bran, blueberry and other muffin top varieties as well," Bob Neri added.
Batter is deposited into hamburger bun pans, racked and then baked in the ovens. After ambient cooling, product is robotically picked and placed into a Formost horizontal wrapper then manually placed into 6-pack trays, overwrapped and closed with a Kwik Lok clip. All products are bound for retail market.
The new office location was only temporary. "Our ultimate office space is part of the 12,000-sq-ft physical expansion to square off the building, to which we are still putting finishing touches," Bob Neri noted.
Other additions to the bread building include a new Peerless 1,300-lb mixer that replaced an 800-lb unit to match the other two systems in place. A new roll line that includes an AMF proofer and a Winkler divider and stamper outputs 2,400 doz Kaiser rolls per hour. Operations total three lines — one string line and two roll lines.
A peel board elevator from Capway brings products down from the second floor makeup to the two baking ovens. One oven uses an Capway automated loading system, and a second transport and loading system is being installed this month for the other oven. A new AMF 90-ft tunnel oven replaced a 60-ft oven in 2006. Additionally, the proof box was expanded from 60- to 96-rack capacity.
Neri’s also expanded capacity of its square bagel production by adding 30 ft to the existing 60-ft oven, two LeMatic slicers and five Formost packaging lines.
BAGEL BOOMERS. In the bagel building, two of its three bagel lines were expanded from 4- to 5-pocket systems, increasing output from 2,000 dozen per hour to 3,600 dozen per hour. The other line was upgraded from a 4- to a 6-pocket line.
The Pfening ingredient handling system supplies the Peerless mixers, after which a chunker and divider split dough balls that feed individual BakTek bagel formers. Raw bagels are placed on peel boards, racked, proofed and then retarded for various times at approximately 38°F.
Bagels are automatically fed to the inlet conveyor of the Heat and Control hot water baths before the ovens. Bagels traverse the 210°F kettles in 60 to 90 seconds. They then bake at approximately 215°F for eight to 10 minutes.
Ambient cooling takes approximately 100 minutes using Capway overhead racetrack double conveyors. Cooled products descend to LeMatic center-hinge slicers, followed by Loma metal detectors and then to the Formost packaging lines. Kwik Lok closure clips secure the bags. For the mini bagels, a Key Technology vibratory conveyor and Capway transfer conveyors move products to the Affeldt bulk baggers.
"We doubled the number of Affeldt twin baggers for mini bagel packaging and added a Master Ingredients minor-ingredient scaler in the makeup area as well as a third 1,300-lb mixer," Dominick Neri said. "The fully automated preprogrammed system scales up to 12 minor ingredients down to ±1 g."
Bulk flour delivery now totals 35 truckloads per week, and daily production output increased from 60,000 doz to 130,000 doz regular-sized bagels in the past 36 months.
One of the most significant innovations to the bagel operation, according to Mr. Cicatelli, and one that improved not only the plant’s environmental condition but also employee well-being and product quality and consistency was the infrared burners from Flynn Burner Neri’s installed between the bagel boilers and oven belts.
"Coming out of the boiler, bagels are very wet, and as soon as they hit the oven belt, they stick to it and get destroyed upon exiting when they transfer off the oven band to the discharge belt," he said. "It created a tremendous amount of waste, and we had to have several people at the oven exit just checking for damaged product. For years, we had oil sprayer systems that each used 15 jets spraying the bottom of the bagels with an oil solution to prevent them sticking to the oven band, basically displacing the water with oil."
According to management, oil mist was everywhere, even with a vacuum hood system above the line. "It smelled terrible, created a safety hazard and the jets got clogged every few days," Mr. Cicatelli noted. "The mist was all over the building.
The infrared burners from Flynn are positioned within the conveyor loop of the transfer link belt between boiler and oven. "The infrared burner quickly dries the bottom of the bagel, forming a skin so they don’t stick," Mr. Cicatelli said. "Our quality has improved as well as our yield. The operation is much cleaner, and product is better with less waste. Although the system is gas fired, costs far offset the cost of the solution — 750 gal per month — repair and waste."
TREND READY. "Customers want whole grain, fiber, 100% whole wheat and multigrain," Bob Neri said. "We have school districts converting their orders to whole wheat as well, requesting whole-wheat Kaiser rolls and bagels. We eliminated all high-fructose corn syrup and changed to liquid sugar. One customer is adding potato-based products just to add something new to its product line — potato rolls, square bagels and soon round bagels.
What’s next for Neri’s? "Maybe frozen capabilities," Dominick Neri said. "The key is to stay flexible and capture opportunity. Contract manufacturing has great potential because it allows bakeries to get into products they couldn’t ordinarily get into without great expenditure. We already have the infrastructure and flexibility within our core product group to produce just about anything."
... Frederick Todenhagen of Molunkus, Maine. Catherine was affectionately known by many as "Kitty." She grew up in Port Chester, N.Y., where she later graduated from Grasslands School of Nursing. She went on from college to work at United Hospital in ...Dear Editor,
Supreme Court Judge Anthony Kennedy's opinion that "the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child" (one assumes when the child is not killed as result of rape) is cause for disquiet. There is nothing more vile and revolting and morally depraved than rape of a child, and to consider that there may be punishment too harsh hints at an atrophy of morality and of willingness to protect ourselves that appears to increasingly pervade this country.
But the court's ruling has a positive side. Child molesters are not popular among general prison populations. There will be justice.Rene Prochelle
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