With retail sales topping $4.0 billion, Roundy’s Supermarkets is well known throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Roundy’s food production facility, located in Kenosha, WI, is central to the chain’s operation and occupies 120,000 square-feet. It is comprised of multiple, separate food processing capabilities under one roof, encompassing meat processing, dairy foods manufacturing, baked goods production, bottling of prepared drinks, and preparation of a wide selection of fresh deli foods. Selling a high volume of freshly-prepared soups and salads, its store delis require constant preparation of pasta and potatoes as key ingredients.

When Roundy’s first began preparing fresh soups and salads in 2007, it relied on a chain-driven, semi-continuous conveyor batch process system for cooking and cooling its pasta and potatoes. Unfortunately, this process was problematic with uneven cooking and cooling.

Clean-Flow cooker, cooler line at Roundy’s in Kenosha
Clean-Flow cooker, cooler line at Roundy’s in Kenosha, Wisconsin runs at near-zero downtime and provides 100 percent more throughput with pasta. Source: Lyco Manufacturing.

“With our potatoes, the wedges and slices did not cook well,” says Mario Jedwabnik, vice president manufactured foods at Roundy’s. “They would stack up, and the steam penetration was insufficient to cook through the layers, so some potatoes were undercooked. Cooling them down was another problem. We could not get enough water on the potatoes to cool them evenly.”

“But the pasta was a nightmare for us,” continues Jedwabnik. “Our conveyor baskets were 16 in. wide x 36 in. long, and the pasta tended to compact into them like a paste during the cooking and cooling processes. There was not enough circulation of water through the baskets to keep the pasta separated.”

Roundy’s was also plagued with excessive downtime, amounting to 30 percent of available production time. Problems included conveyor chain breaks, and baskets becoming separated from the chain and jamming inside the cooking and cooling chambers. These required the unit to be cooled down, taken apart, repaired, re-welded, cleaned and restarted.

Roundy’s researched a number of different systems that it thought could handle its potato and pasta throughput needs. One was a new continuous rotary cooking and cooling system manufactured by Lyco Manufacturing.

“We visited the Lyco plant in Columbus, Wisconsin,” says Jedwabnik. “We discussed options with their engineers, and subsequently tested our potato and pasta products through Lyco’s cooking and cooling equipment at their on-site test lab. The speed of processing and the quality of the finished product impressed us. We could see what the finished product was going to look like.”

In March of 2011, Roundy’s selected a Lyco PLC-based, Clean-Flow continuous-flow cooker and cooler system to process its potatoes and pasta. The seven-foot long, 40-inch diameter Clean-Flow cooker was backed up by a four-foot long, 40-inch Clean-Flow cooler, capable of moving 2,000 pounds of pasta or potatoes through the system per hour, representing a 300 percent increase in potato throughput, and a 100 percent throughput increase in pasta. Clean-Flow is designed to maximize up-time by minimizing clean-up turn-around time.

The cooler runs at 50 to 60°F, which stops the potatoes or pasta from further cooking. This improves the product consistency and gives a better quality product than what Roundy’s had with its prior conveyor batch process system.

By early 2012, Roundy’s product demand for potatoes and pasta increased dramatically, exceeding capacity on its 12-month-old cooker/cooler system. “We went back to Lyco’s engineering team to reevaluate our needs,” explained Jedwabnik. “We emerged with an upgraded Clean-Flow system capable of processing 3,000 pounds of potatoes per hour, and 3,500 pounds of pasta, which is significantly more than our previous system.”

“Aside from the sizable increase in throughput volume, the product coming out of the new Clean-Flow cooker/cooler is consistent,” says Jedwabnik. “We are very pleased with the system’s performance.”


 For more information, Randy Unterseher, 920-623-4152, randy.unterseher@lycomfg.com