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Garland: Customizing Products Leads to Bigger Profits for Oven Manufacturer

When it comes to the restaurant industry, the Garland Group knows what’s cooking. In an industry where razor-thin margins, demanding customers and a hyper-competitive arena force owners to innovate or close shop, the Freeland-based manufacturer of commercial ovens is thriving thanks to streamlined operations and a relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction.

Garland

Commercial oven manufacturer Garland mixes and matches a broad spectrum of core offerings with custom-made products for specific applications.

“We do a lot of custom work,” says Dale Kostick, senior vice president of the BFTP alumni company. “We have a variety of core products and we mix and match them with custom products for specific applications.” As a result, Garland is able to provide a battery of equipment that meets the needs of most quick service and casual dining chains. “Fifty-two percent of the food service market is chain business,” says Kostick. “If we’re not allied with the chains, we’re not growing.”

On the fast food side of the business, speed is everything. Leveraging its core expertise, Garland developed a two-sided grill for a quick service food chain. The innovation enabled the chain to improve product quality, safety and cooking times without increasing the needed amount of floor space. The specialty grill, manufactured in Freeland, is now being used in thousands of locations all around the world.

Improving Efficiency, Increasing Quality

Recently, a major casual dining chain that’s big on serving sizzling fajita platters was facing an energy-efficiency and food-quality issue, so they turned to Garland for help. Standard operating procedure entailed piling the empty fajita plates on a burner or broiler to heat them. The plates weren’t being heated uniformly and the process was consuming far more energy than needed.

“Not only were they losing 18 inches of production space, they had to crank up the temperature to make sure all the plates were getting warmed,” says Kostick. In response, Garland developed a new fajita pan heater that provides uniform heating, more cooking space and dramatically improved efficiency.

Partnering to Meet a Market Need

Kostick realizes that delivering custom solutions is just one element in the company’s long-term goals. “We need to continually look for ways to prune costs and reduce overhead while developing new products that satisfy the market.”

When Garland saw increasing demand for a better convection oven, the company turned to BFTP, which connected Kostick and his team with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center. Besides investing more than $201,000, Ben Franklin also helped Garland find university-based experts who could refine its product design and streamline its manufacturing in a cost-effective and time-sensitive manner.

“The partnership was a success,” says Kostick. “We were able to meet the market need while reducing part count and that helped reduce the costs to assemble the new oven.”

BFTP and Lehigh also helped Garland squeeze more efficiency out of its manufacturing line. They found innovative ways to combine tasks and adopt more current methods such as “just-in-time inventory” that keep the company running at peak efficiency. Garland is now more competitive than ever and well-positioned for long-term success in the global marketplace.

A New Focus on the High End

Kostick says the company has its sights set on the high-end dining side of the business, where lines are blurring between dining and entertainment.

“We’re seeing more high-end restaurants where you can book a table in the kitchen, or where they employ an open kitchen concept where different stations-prep cook, sous-chef, sauté guy, grill master-are all visible to the customers. Meal preparation becomes part show, and this requires a different set of cooking equipment. This is an area of profitable growth for us because we can customize these stations based on specific requirements.”

The company remains in investment mode, and over the next several years will be focusing on improving its fabrication operations in Freeland. “The work Garland and Ben Franklin did formed a solid foundation to continuously improve, streamline and refine Garland’s manufacturing process,” Kostick says. “We’re far better off as a company because of Ben Franklin’s contribution.”

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This article was featured in
Keynotes October, 2006
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