Where pretzel makers bake pretzels

At the Ditsch production site in Oranienbaum, more than a million baked goods are produced every day. Shift leader Sven Stojan knows the recipe for success behind the globally loved pretzels, pizzas and bread rolls.

At the Ditsch production site in Oranienbaum, more than a million baked goods are produced every day. To make this possible, the plant runs 24 hours a day. Shift leader Sven Stojan knows the recipe for success behind the globally loved pretzels, pizzas and bread rolls.

Oranienbaum-Wörlitz is located in Saxony-Anhalt around 60 kilometres north of Leipzig. The largest production plant of Ditsch pretzel bakery is located on the outskirts of the town, which is home to 9,000 people. Here, some 1.25 million baked goods are produced every day on eight production lines. The number of employees has risen to 500 in recent years and will soon be even more.

Sven Stojan is a production shift leader in Oranienbaum and is currently responsible for four of the eight production lines as well as the packaging hall as part of the three-shift operation. The 45-year-old family man joined Ditsch in 2001 as a newcomer to the business and performed various roles within the company before being promoted to the position of shift leader in 2014.

Round-the-clock production

The large production halls are home to machines that are connected to one another via conveyor belts. Each plays its own role as the dough is kneaded, shaped, coated and baked before being cooled down again and finally packaged as the end product. The air in the room is fresh and cool. Employees move busily through the halls and get down to their work. This scene is accompanied by the background noise of the operating machinery.

Stojan feels comfortable here. His alarm goes off at 4.45 a.m. Shift handover is at 6 a.m. Then he performs one of his daily tours of the plant and gathers information for the daily coordination meeting at 9 a.m. He briskly and purposefully moves between the machines. As he does so, he greets his colleagues operating the machines, stops briefly to make enquiries, checks various displays and containers and makes sure at the conveyor belts that the consistency of the dough meets expectations. It is this variety of tasks and the dialogue with his colleagues that motivates Stojan to come to work every day. In performing his work, he attaches great importance to precision and efficiency. At the same time, he is a sociable character who is relaxed in his dealings with his colleagues.

Valora, Food Service, Ditsch, Produktion, Oranienbaum
Sven Stojan briskly and purposefully moves between the machines.

His area of responsibility ranges from the application of the flour to the packaged and deep-frozen finished product which then only has to be baked or heated up. “I am always pleased when at the end of a shift I have a visible result in front of me in the form of all the fine baked goods we have produced”, says Stojan. Even after all the years, he still enjoys a pretzel from the plant every now and again. “As long as it isn’t every day”, he explains with a smile on his face. During his free time, the trained mechanic is interested in motorsport and likes to go fishing.

Bread rolls, bread sticks, pizzas, croissants with and without fillings as well as moulded biscuits are also produced in Oranienbaum in addition to the famous Ditsch pretzels. Depending on the order and customer wishes, the lines have to be reorganised on a daily basis, the machines tweaked and the finely tailored recipes adjusted. This requires very precise planning to ensure that the machines can be operated as efficiently as possible. The high quality and safety standards must likewise always be taken into account and solutions must be found as quickly as possible in the event of faults or failures. “If a machine that would otherwise produce 16,000 baked goods per hour suddenly stands idle, it rapidly becomes expensive”, explains Stojan. “Here, you simply need to roll your sleeves up and make decisions without hesitation”.

Valora, Food Service, Ditsch, production site, Oranienbaum
“If a machine that would otherwise produce 16,000 baked goods per hour suddenly stands idle, it rapidly becomes expensive”, explains Sven Stojan.

All or nothing – cooperation is important

There are also such critical moments in which good teamwork is especially important. “Each section of a production line is reliant on the others. If one section fails, the others also grind to a halt”, explains Stojan. “Good communication and a family-like atmosphere are therefore key for us. We have flat hierarchies and an informal culture with respect to how we address one another”.

In addition to the machines and robots, there are also work steps that are still performed by hand. For example, for packaging, the stirring of mixtures and fillings, the curving of croissants and, should customers so wish, the traditional looping of pretzels.

Ditsch pretzels are popular

Thanks to its proximity to the motorway and Leipzig Airport as well as its position in the heart of Europe, the Ditsch production site in Oranienbaum is optimally located. The plant’s products are not only delivered from here to the more than 200 Ditsch branches in Germany, but also to customers around the world who order products from Ditsch for trade or retail purposes. “We receive most orders from within the EU. However, we also have major customers in Japan and the US, for example”, explains Stojan.

The plant in Oranienbaum can tailor the shape, kind and size of the products completely in keeping with customer wishes. In recent years, demand has increased so greatly that Ditsch has taken the decision to further expand its capacities in Oranienbaum.

Additional lines are to be opened in 2019, with a neighbouring production hall to be constructed for this purpose. This capacity expansion will allow for the large level of customer demand to be better satisfied. State-of-the-art technology will also be used in the new halls in order to further improve the efficiency of the lines. “We are currently reaching our capacity limits as there are so many orders. This shows how popular our products are with customers and that they value the quality”, summarises Stojan. “We work around the clock in order to produce the finest baked goods. It gives us great pride and at the same time provides us with a wonderful incentive if our customers are satisfied”.

Photos and videos: Noë Flum