When Chris and Denise Noyes bought Little Italian Pizza, a 2-unit pizzeria in suburban, Southwest Chicago, they faced the the management decision crucial to any entrepreneur--determining their primary management goal. They could manage for growth, they could manage for profit, they could manage for cash, or they could achieve a compromise among the three. "For us," Chris stated, "it wasn't a question. We were managing for growth."
And grow they did. Financing themselves to the hilt, obtaining leasing to conserve working capital while upgrading equipment, they remodeled, redecorated and opened an additional store, in just over four years.
The 20 year-old revolving tray, solid shelf oven in their main store, was providing great service, and--more important to Chris--the exact type of bake for which he was looking. So when they opened their new store, he knew he wanted another revolving tray design. "The Fish P-60 we purchased went in easily, and gave us a great bake, right from the start," Chris said. "You can't beat a revolving tray design for baking consistency, and the Fish oven gave us everything we wanted."
As the improvements, upgrades and spreading "word-of-mouth" endorsements of Little Italian pizza caught on, though, Chris and Denise were faced with a new challenge: too little baking capacity at their main store. "It got to the point," Denise said, "that we were telling call-in customers they would have to wait over an hour, just to pick a pizza up."
"The old oven was still running fine," Chris stated, "but we had to get more capacity."
As in any shop or plant, the replacement of any major piece of equipment demands either a back-up system, or a very quick turn-around, to keep down-time to a minimum. We knew from our previous experience approximately how long it would take to assemble a new oven, but had no idea how long the take-down of the old main oven would require.
10:00 PM, Sunday, February 5, 2000
Total time: 0 hours, 0 minutes
"We coordinated the take down crew so they could be finished, in time for the new oven's delivery. As Monday is usually our slowest day, we scheduled delivery with the idea that the old oven would be gone and the new one could be assembled on delivery, having us up and running on Tuesday." Chris stated.
"Then, we just sat back and prayed," Denise added. "We shut down our Sunday evening operation early, at 9:00 PM, turned off the oven, and opened the loading door so it could cool. By 10:00 PM, the tear-down crew had started."
For something which was, in Chris' terms, "built like a tank," the old oven came down pretty much on schedule. Motors, drive components, and controls were all removed, marked and boxed. "It's still a good oven," Chris observed, and we plan to reassemble it in another store."
Then, one by one, shelves, were removed from the chamber and taken to a waiting truck. Then the main axle was unbolted from the spiders and finally, the spiders themselves were removed. "At this point," Chris said, "we'd been working only a few hours, and had only walls, ceiling, floor and subframe left. It looked like a cake-walk."
Then, of course, the real fun began. The primary insulation in the old oven's baking cavity walls was silica powder as fine and light as talcum. "Every movement sent clouds of dust into the air," Chris said. "Despite having all room openings covered with plastic sheets, we had to work slowly to contain as much of the dust as possible, which we stored in bags for later use."
10:00 AM, Monday, February 7, 2000
Total time: 12 hours
One piece at a time, the Fish oven came in, right in through the back door.
Nevertheless, by 10:00 AM, the old oven was in the truck, the shop area was being cleaned and the new oven was outside in crates, waiting to be brought in.
"There are some ovens we don't like to work with," stated Joe Wisman, a partner in Shankland's Service, who was overseeing the installation. Joe has been in the baking
business all of his life, first as a baker, then with the bakery equipment service company. "But I love putting these Fish ovens up," he added.
Joe pointed out some of the advantages of the oven he was installing. "First, everything is sized so that the crates all fit through a standard-sized door opening. Second, take a look at the panels. They're all modular and pre-assembled."
"In a lot of ovens," Joe continued, "the wall panels themselves have to be individually screwed together. "It takes forever. On these ovens, once you've got the frame in place, the pre-assembled walls are just set into place, and the top installed. Then it's just a matter of insulating, and installing and hooking up the electrical, drives, and burners. We can put one of these Fish ovens up in half the time it takes us to put up a(n other type of oven)."
"Another advantage," he said, "is the insulation. These ovens are very well insulated, but they use rock-wool rather than "pour-in" powders. It's clean to work with. No matter how you handle the pour-in powders, they're going to go everywhere."
4:00 PM, Monday, February 7, 2000
Total time: 16 hours
With the oven's superstructure completely assembled, insulating, and installation of burners and mechanical components, began.
"Once they started on the new oven, the were done in under eight hours," Chris observed. "It's amazing how quick it went together."
By six o'clock that evening, the oven was complete and electrical drives and components had been tested. Only the gas connections--scheduled for the next day--remained. And, of course, on small minor detail--the test bake.
10:00AM, Tuesday, February 8, 2000
"Take a look at them," Chris said, grinning.
Atop the stainless table sat the test-bake pizzas, uniformly browned to the color Chris sought. Lifting them up to inspect the bottom crusts, they were perfect. "That's our first bake. We'd have been done a long time ago," Chris stated, "but we had to wait for the gas guy."
"Come here and feel the sides of the oven. That's as hot as they get! That's pretty well insulated--we're hardly losing any heat at all and that means we're gonna' save on fuel."
The new Fish oven looked huge in the relatively small confines of the pizzeria.
"The mechanicals and drives are all at the front, on the bottom," Chris observed. "The space we saved on the ends let us almost double our capacity with an oven about the same length as the old one."
Total work time for disassembly and removal of the old oven, and assembly of the new oven was a mere 18 hours, including the final gas connection. Total elapsed time, for the entire process was--per schedule--24 hours.
Only one question remained to be answered: "So, Chris," I asked, "are you ready to do it again Replied Chris, who had been there almost the entire time and was just starting a new shift, "I think I need some sleep."