Revamped factory meets baking needs

  • 2004-02-19
  • By Elizabeth Celms
OGRE - The enticing aroma of freshly baked bread flows from the windows, doors and air vents of the newly restored Druva bakery in the small town of Ogre.

Inside, a line of women in white aprons and clear plastic sanitation caps adjust loaves of bread with nimble fingers as the food shoots out of a giant metallic oven. The golden loaves of bread quickly fly along the conveyor belt toward the fearsome mouth of a machine dubbed Holly Slicer.
Within seconds, Holly ruthlessly slices and dices the loaves, spitting them out onto another conveyer belt where workers then slide the finished product into plastic bags for distribution throughout Latvia. The machinery is almost as fresh as the bread.
On Jan. 30, nearly 100 people joined to celebrate the reopening of this factory - currently the second largest and most modern bakery in the country - in a ceremony that included speeches from company representatives and a symbolic dedication of the revamped building.
"Our long term vision is to become the leading player in this market," said Ivars Skrebelis, managing director of Druva, which is owned by Fazer Bakeries. "[The modernization] is a natural step to reaching our target. We've improved economic and social aspects."
With approaching EU membership, Latvia's bakery business has much growth potential and is therefore a significant investment target for Fazer Bakeries, according to its managing director for business, Markku Numminen. Along with the reconstruction, the company aims to modernize the factory, increase production efficiency and improve competitiveness and customer service.
The 7 million euro project represents the largest investment in Latvia's baking industry in the past year. The funds went into replacing outdated machinery with the latest equipment in modern bakery technology. Not only is the machinery more economically efficient, but it's also safer for workers.
"This is a business that can't be handled by robots," Numminen said. "We're dependent on good local people with a passion for their customers and a high perception of quality - because food is all about quality."
The appreciation that Fazer has for its employees is reflected in the company's decision to create a safer and more comfortable working environment. Overheating inside the bakery had previously posed a problem for the workers' health, but reconstruction addressed this by improving the factory's ventilation system so that the room temperature does not exceed 30 degrees Celsius.
Despite the significant advancement in Druva's bread production, the number of jobs at the bakery will not decrease, according to Skrebelis. Instead of being replaced by modern machinery, the responsibilities of the bakery workers will change to accommodate the new equipment.
Fazer is also concerned about reducing environmental damage. As it meets EU requirements, the new machinery will cut the amount of the factory's air pollution by 60 percent and reduce wastewater output to 25 percent of previous levels.
Numminen emphasized that these technological improvements will in no way take away from the quality and taste of the bakery's products. The traditional bread recipes that the company has used for more than a century will not be lost, he stressed.
"The modernized Fazer maiznica Druva bakery is an excellent example of combining the latest technology with deep-rooted expertise, strong traditional brand and local bread culture," Numminen said.
Traditional Latvian bread has a rich cultural history. Latvians especially prize their dark rye bread, called rupjmaize, which has lasted for centuries as an essential part of the local diet. In 2003, Druva's "Meistara Rudzu maize" was awarded as the best rye bread in the Latvian market. In total, the company produces around 40 varieties of bread.
Though the history of the bread the factory produces reaches back many years, its ownership is quite new. In 2002, the Druva bakery was relocated to its current location in Ogre. A year later, Fazer bought Druva and began proposing a reconstruction plan that would increase the company's competition in the future European market.
This change was a giant step for Druva. Fazer is a major international bakery enterprise, currently exporting its products to more than 20 countries, including the U.S.A., Canada, Russia, Germany and even Japan. In 2003, the company earned 3.5 million euros and had a total of 5,400 workers at its 22 bakeries.