Jane’s Dough Foods pushes frozen pizza quality, productivity.

Jane’s Dough processes about 45 topped frozen pizza SKUs. Production Manager Dan Seimetz (back) and Richie Scott monitor rotary dough cutting.

Baked pizza crusts travel from ambient cooling tower to two-stage freezer. Below: Finished pizzas in new modified atmosphere packaging.

Sometimes the best business metaphors come straight from the factory floor.

Visit Jane’s Dough Foods’ (JDF) frozen pizza plant in Columbus, Ohio, for example, and you’ll see a sheeting line with equipment stations that repeatedly roll, stretch and fold dough until it becomes a thin layer ready for cutting. Then newly cut pizza doughs travel through large spiral towers in an enclosed proofing room. The right mixture of time, temperature and humidity helps each dough rise so it’s ready for topping and/or freezing.

JDF’s frozen pizza plant has a similar step-by-step story – involving bustling periods of activity followed by time and the right conditions to facilitate more growth.

Will Webb is a 43-year Donatos veteran who has worked at bakery since 1999. Today, he’s JDF’s director of quality assurance.

“The decision to create Jane’s Dough Foods was easy. We were looking for ways to diversify our brand and leverage the knowledge gained after 48 years in the pizza business,” he says. “We began developing products for customers who share similar core values. Since then, we have attracted both private label and national grocery business including some of industry’s largest retailers. We believe – particularly in today’s economy – that this strategy will provide both long-term growth and sustainability.  Meanwhile, with those decisions made, we can concentrate on having fun and making great pizza.”

Here’s a brief look at Donatos and Jane’s Dough Foods.

Step One / 1992: Donatos Pizza had about 34 pizza restaurants including its first franchise. Founder Jim Grote built a bakery to produce frozen dough pizza crusts formulated to match restaurant taste. This important move improved overall store-to-store product consistency, boosted store level employee safety and productivity (saving employees’ back-room dough handling time and activities) and reduced shrink (involving doughs prepared but ultimately not used).

L-R: General Manager Alan Hoover, Production Manager Dan Seimetz

Step Two / 2004-2006: With growth and a little extra capacity, Donatos partnered with another well-known Ohio business, The Kroger Company. The bakery produced branded Donatos take-and-bake pizzas for kiosk sales within Kroger supermarkets. The wholesale business grew and in 2006, Donatos expanded its plant to add spiral proofing towers, a three-stage oven, cooling tower and topping line.

Step Three / 2008: Bakery production and efficiency levels not only were strong enough to support more than 150 Donatos restaurants but also growing wholesale demand. Convenience stores, supermarkets and non-commercial foodservice operators asked for more frozen pizza in private label, foodservice and contract food programs. In a reference to Jim Grote’s daughter, Jane Grote Abell, Donatos created Jane’s Dough Foods. This was Jim Grote’s second spin-off business (after industrial process equipment supplier, J.E. Grote Co.).

Step Four / 2010-11: Convenience store and retail “take-and-bake” demand contributed to JDF’s double-digit annual sales increase in 2010. JDF also earned a 2010 Emerald Award for Leadership from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio for becoming “Landfill Free.” The plant reduced its total landfill waste by more than 99 percent, largely by recycling 342,000 pounds of scrap pizza dough into animal feed.

JDF started 2011 by earning SQF 2000 Level 2 certification, a global accreditation for food safety and quality production. JDF also has excelled in worker safety and as of October 2011, the plant worked 1,100 days without a lost-time accident.

Projected growth for JDF’s retail and c-store pizzas (including more branded retail products, wider distribution) led JDF to expand its toppings room by 1,760 square feet. The September 2011 project included a second individually quick frozen products blast freezer and modified atmosphere packaging line.

What’s next? While sale rise, JDF production costs will go down, predicts Hoover, who joined JDF last April with more than 33 years of combined packaging and food industry experience. He most recently served as president at Kahiki Foods, a frozen Asian entrée and appetizers processor in nearby Gahanna, Ohio.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods recognized Kahiki in 2009 for its use of the Milliken Performance System to drive year-over-year production efficiencies. Milliken & Company, a Spartanburg, S.C., textiles leader, developed its own process control program with principles of Total Process Management, Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma.

“We’ll introduce a similar system to drive out costs and waste. We want to streamline processes so that cost per pound declines,” says Hoover. “Meanwhile, we will build our safety program into one that fully engages and enrolls every associate in our business. Ultimately, our goal is to develop a high performance culture and become a ‘best place to work’ here in Central Ohio.”

Under Hoover, JDF also will take a cue from Jim Grote, who espoused a simple business strategy when he opened his first Donatos pizzeria in Columbus in 1963. At the time, Grote said his goal was “to make the best pizza and to treat others the way I would like to be treated.”

Forty-eight years later, Hoover holds a similar standard for JDF’s industrial business.

“We will focus on what customers want and need. Our desire is to delight customers with exceptional service. In addition, we want to improve the lives of our ultimate consumers by providing products that ‘wow’ them every time,” he says. “And we still practice the golden rule of treating others the way you would like to be treated.”

At a glance: Jane’s Dough Foods
Address: 935 Taylor Station Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43230
Production Manager: Dan Seimetz
Facility: 45,000 square feet
Production: Two dough sheeters, one toppings line
Products: Approximately 45 frozen topped pizzas (including 7-inch, 11- and 14-inch, 16-inch varieties), breadsticks and approximately 25 different frozen pizza shells.
Employees: 65 full-time associates