Have you ever felt like a T.V. character? Well, I did and here’s why…
I just spent the past few weeks in San Antonio, Texas working for a temporary agency. They sent me to work at Hill Country Bakery. Hill Country Bakery bakes, packages and ships all the baked goods for one of the largest coffee chains in America, Starbucks. We worked packing pumpkin bread, lemon pound cake, and banana bread. The head chef said they made over 8 million loaves of bread.
Here is the process. Almost everything is on a conveyer belt system including the oven. The bread is baked and then sent down the line to the cooling tower. The cooling tower is about 4o feet tall (about 4 stories) and holds hundreds of loaves of bread at a time. It moves slowly round and round. After the bread is cooled, it goes down the line to get a coat of frosting and then goes into the freezer for about 3 hours. After the bread is frozen, it is ready to be individually sliced, wrapped and boxed for shipping. About 16 loaves of bread are sliced at a time. Then they go down the conveyer belt, where it bifurcates into three conveyer belt lines. There are about 1o-12 production workers on each line. Each line packages and boxes about 120 packages per minute.
Let the games begin…
At the front of the conveyer belt line the work is productive and easy. You open a box, pick up the bread three at a time in each hand and shove it into the box. You do this three times which means you are putting 18 in a box. Then you take the box and put it on the conveyer belt. Open another box and repeat. Easy enough, that was a job that I could do. Once the filled box is on the conveyer belt, it goes down the line to the person at the end, who shoves the box through a tape gun machine. They are also filling boxes with bread that is coming down the line. They have to count the bread as they put it in the box. It is not like it is up at the front.
Here is where the fun begins, the manager decided to put me at the back of the line to relive someone for break. Everything started out smoothly, Run the boxes through the machine, open a box fill the box with bread, count it, run it and the other boxes through the machine. Everything ran smoothly for me for about 2 minutes, before all hell broke loose! Bread and boxes are coming at a faster rate than I could handle, Bread is falling all over the floor, Boxes are backing up on the convyer belt, I felt like shoving bread down my shirt and my pants, instead I just started scooping up the bread and piling it up in a box. I shouted out for help! The manager grabbed three other people to come and clean up the mess I had just created. One person, counted and boxed the bread, one person piled up the untapped boxes on a pallet, another one sent the new and old boxes through the machine. I, meanwhile, crawled around on the floor picking up all the packages of bread that fell on the floor. Geez!
I felt like I love Lucy’s most famous Chocolate episode where she is shoving chocolate in her mouth in her apron, and down her shirt.
This experience makes me appreciate all the hard working production workers in the world. They are fast, hard workers. To them we say Thanks.