Ethel's Baking Company

Success with The Center

ETHEL'S: Increased Capacity & Smarter Use of Space are Making Business Sweeter

We will reach out to The Center again, at our next growth step, for their input on building out the next space for layout and efficiency maximization. We learned quickly with this last project that small improvements lead to substantial gains. They have been a great shoulder to lean on.
-- Jill Bommarito, Owner, Ethel’s Baking Company

Founded in 2011 by Jill Bommarito, Ethel’s Baking Company ( is a woman-owned premier baking company located in St. Clair Shores, Mich., with 12 employees. Ethel’s offers superior, old-fashioned baked goods that just happen to be gluten-free. The idea for the business came about when Bommarito hosted her first Christmas dinner for extended family. Celiac disease had been in her family for more than 30 years. Since many family members had bemoaned the necessary gluten-free options in the past, Bommarito decided to make a delicious and completely gluten-free dinner (but she didn’t tell anyone). She even topped it all off with the now famous pecan dandy bars for dessert. When the gluten-full and the gluten-free indulged and raved about their delicious meal, the idea for Ethel’s came to life. Originally Ethel’s Edibles, the company is now known as Ethel’s Baking Company.


Owner Jill Bommarito feared that Ethel’s had outgrown their current facility and was actively searching for a new one. Bommarito called on the team at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) to help them find a new facility—one where they would have room to grow and comfortably bake and package their products. During the initial visit, The Center quickly realized the current layout wasn’t working because they weren’t using the space in the most efficient manner. They were able to pinpoint the following issues: no room to load pallets, excessively large administrative area, not enough throughput and the raw materials take up too much space.


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After a thorough assessment, the team from The Center discussed a number of opportunities with the group from Ethel’s that could help them find sufficient capacity at their current location and possibly eliminate (or at least delay) an expensive move to a new facility. The Center encouraged Ethel’s to reduce the size of their administrative space and maximize the facility’s efficiency—adding much-need production space. To achieve this plan, Ethel’s needed to turn their facility into a giant u-shaped cell. Ethel’s started out with 170 sq. ft. for administration, but after The Center’s team reconfigured the layout, they were able to comfortably reduce administrative space to 90 sq. ft.

The Center also suggested adding a loading door large enough to get a pallet through. This door now allows Ethel’s to put pallets directly onto the delivery truck—increasing the efficiency of loading and unloading the truck and resulting in significant cost savings. This oversized door substantially decreases the risk of injury to their employees, too, providing adequate space to fit machinery and product. In addition, The Center helped Ethel’s increase the number of cookies per oven by 30% for each batch, which reduced baking time by 30%. The decrease in baking time also led to a surge in efficiency overall; the cookies are ready to be packaged more quickly. Because of The Center’s beneficial recommendations, Ethel’s no longer needs the larger, more costly space and has improved the production process.


  • Overall cost savings: $300,200
  • Saved time. Reduced oven time by 51%. (Baking time reduced by 165 minutes per
  • batch.)
  • Improved productivity. Increased the number of cookies per oven (per batch) by 30%
  • Reduced total man hours for each shift by 25%.
  • Improved efficiency. Reduced administrative space from 170 sq. feet to 90 sq. ft. As a result, increased available baking space.