The name Roundy’s Supermarkets is well known throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. The company’s 160 retail grocery stores, operating under names like Copps, Metro Market and Mariano’s, provide a broad deli selection of freshly prepared foods. Roundy’s food production facility located in Kenosha, Wis., is central to the chain’s operation. This 120,000 square-foot food manufacturing plant is a hybrid facility, comprised of multiple separate food processing capabilities under one roof encompassing meat processing, dairy foods manufacturing, baked-goods production, bottling of prepared drinks and preparation of a wide selection of fresh deli foods. Selling a high volume of freshly-prepared soups and salads, its store delis require constant preparation of pasta and potatoes as key ingredients.
Need for a Better Cooking and Cooling Process
Since 2007, when Roundy’s first began preparing fresh soups and salads, it has relied on a chain-driven, semi-continuous conveyor batch process system for cooking and cooling its pasta and potatoes. In this process, raw diced, cubed and sliced potatoes, and dry pasta were loaded by weight into a continuous series of baskets connected by a chain conveyor which was pulled through a cooking chamber where steam was used to penetrate and cook the product. Downstream within the chamber, a cooling zone utilizing chilled water was sprayed onto the potatoes or pasta to reduce the temperature and stop the cooking process.
“With our potatoes, the wedges and slices did not cook well,” said Mario Jedwabnik, Vice President Manufactured Foods at Roundy’s. “They would stack up, and the steam penetration was insufficient to cook through the layers, so some potatoes were undercooked. Cooling them down was another problem. We could not get enough water on the potatoes to cool them evenly.
“But the pasta was a nightmare for us. Our conveyor baskets were 16” wide x 36” long, and the pasta tended to compact into them like a paste during the cooking and cooling processes. There was not enough circulation of water through the baskets to keep the pasta separated.”
Roundy’s also was plagued with excessive downtime, amounting to 30 percent of available production time. The company experienced problems including conveyor chain breaks and baskets becoming separated from the chain and jamming inside the cooking and cooling chambers. These required the unit to be cooled down, taken apart, repaired, re-welded, cleaned and restarted.
Changeover times between potato cuts or pasta varieties took about 60 minutes, primarily to allow the cook and cool cycles to complete. Changeovers between potatoes and pasta, which required cleaning the system, would take 2-1/2 hours to perform.
“We ran the conveyor batch system for about 2-1/2 years, until 2011,” explained Jedwabnik. “We were processing 600 to 700 pounds of potatoes per hour, and 1,000 pounds of pasta per hour. But this was not enough to keep up with the demand from our store delis.”
Roundy’s researched a number of different systems that they thought could handle their potato and pasta throughput needs. One was a new continuous rotary cooking and cooling design manufactured by Lyco Manufacturing.
“We visited the Lyco plant in Columbus, Wisconsin,” said Jedwabnik. “Then tested our potato and pasta products through Lyco’s cooking and cooling equipment at their on-site test lab. The speed of processing and the quality of the finished product impressed us.”
The Switch to Continuous-Flow Rotary Processing
In March of 2011, Roundy’s selected a Lyco Clean-Flow® continuous-flow cooker and cooler system to process its potatoes and pasta. The seven-foot long, 40-inch diameter Clean-Flow cooker was backed up by a four-foot long, 40-inch Clean-Flow cooler, capable of moving 2,000 pounds of pasta or potatoes through the system per hour. The company experienced a 300-percent increase in potato throughput, and a 100-percent throughput increase in pasta.
The continuous-flow cooking and cooling system which Roundy’s adopted utilizes two completely enclosed continuous Clean-Flow units, one for cooking and one for cooling directly following in sequence. The machines have internal augers to control dwell time in a wedge wire basket. The auger flights do not drag the product through the cooker and cooler system. Rather, pasta and potatoes are carefully agitated while suspended in water as they advance through the auger and basket system, utilizing a water-injection system, called Hydro-Flow®. Damage to the potatoes and fragile pasta products is a fraction of 1 percent.
Once product has passed through the cooker machine, in a first-in/first-out sequence, the potatoes or pasta are then gently deposited into the following cooler and chilled to its programmed temperature. The product is then discharged out of the system, evenly cooked and cooled to specification.
The cooler runs at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which stops the potatoes or pasta from further cooking. This improves the product consistency and gives a better quality product than what Roundy’s had with its prior conveyor batch process system.
Clean-Flow is designed to maximize up-time by minimizing clean-up turn-around time.
Roundy’s clean-up time is improved 300 percent, from 2-1/2 hours with the old system to 45 minutes in the Clean-Flow design because the auger is totally exposed for cleaning.
By early 2012, Roundy’s product demand for potatoes and pasta increased dramatically, exceeding capacity on its 12-month-old cooker/cooler system. “We went back to Lyco’s engineering team to reevaluate our needs,” explained Jedwabnik. “We emerged with an upgraded Clean-Flow system capable of processing 3,000 pounds of potatoes per hour, and 3,500 pounds of pasta, which is significantly more than our previous system.”
The new system can process more than 400 percent more potatoes per hour, and more than 300 percent more pasta per hour compared to Roundy’s original conveyor batch system, with virtually zero product defect, and near-zero downtime from malfunction.
“The product coming out of the new Clean-Flow cooker/cooler is consistent,” continued Jedwabnik. “We are very pleased with the system’s performance.”
Jim McMahon writes on emerging technologies in food processing.
About Roundy's Supermarkets, Inc.
Roundy’s is a leading grocer in the Midwest with nearly $4.0 billion in sales and more than 18,000 employees. Founded in Milwaukee in 1872, the company operates 160 retail grocery stores and 88 pharmacies under the Pick ’n Save, Rainbow, Copps, Metro Market and Mariano’s retail banners in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.
To reach Roundy’s, please contact Mario Jedwabnik, Vice President Manufactured Foods, Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc.; 5500 52nd Street, Kenosha, WI 53144; Phone 414-231-6902; email [email protected]; www.roundys.com.
About Lyco Manufacturing
Lyco Manufacturing, a world-leading manufacturer of commercial cooking and cooling equipment for food processors, is focused on improving its customer’s return on investment through innovative designs. The company’s personnel have extensive
experience and knowledge in the food processing industry. Lyco’s passion is developing the best customer-aligned, innovative food processing machinery in the world. World-
class metal manufacturing lasers, precision press brakes, and robot welders enhance the quality and reduce the cost of products made in the food and fabrication divisions of the company. Founded in 1980 by the owner and Chairman of the Board, David R. Zittel,
Lyco Manufacturing is housed in a state of the art 80,000 square-foot facility located in Columbus, WI, 30 miles northeast of Madison, WI, USA.
For more information contact Randy Unterseher, Vice President of Marketing, Lyco Manufacturing, Inc.; Phone 920-623-4152; [email protected]; 115 Commercial Drive, Columbus, Wisconsin 53925; www.lycomfg.com.