Tips for troubleshooting today’s bakery, part 2

by Dan Malovany
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POWER Engineers

As president of The Long Co., Chicago, IL, Bill Zimmerman works with a veteran staff of manufacturing, engineering, food safety, sanitation, human resources, quality control, purchasing and financial experts who consult with bakeries of all types and sizes. The co-op offers services on all facets of a bakery’s operation, including eliminating downtime, minimizing changeovers, buying equipment and more. In part 2 of Baking & Snack's exclusive interview, Mr. Zimmerman and his veteran consultants and offers more suggestions on tackling some of the everyday challenges that bakers face. For more information on The Long Co., visit www.thelongco.com.

Baking & Snack: What are some of the biggest advances in technology over the past decade?

Bill Zimmerman: The biggest advances in technology are in controls for the equipment and processes, primarily in PLCs and advanced motor controls. From a sanitation concern, we now have dry ice machines for cleaning and high-pressure vapor cleaning equipment.

How have these advances complicated life for bakeries?

The complications are in finding, training and maintaining the people to keep the equipment in proper operation. Equipment is more advanced, and it takes more training, understanding of the equipment and knowledge of the operations to get employees up to speed.

What are the keys to ensuring smooth startup of a new production line?

Take the startup of the new line one piece of equipment at a time. You need to pre-plan the complete installation with follow-up and evaluations throughout the installation. Plant management needs to set up daily meetings with all equipment vendors at the end of each day.

Both sides need to review what has been accomplished and what will be accomplished. Each vendor must know what is expected by management. They need to have on-site tech support from the various vendors. It is important to pre-train operators and helpers who will be working on the new line, as well as the engineering staff who will have the task of maintaining the new equipment. Also important are equipment preflight and running the equipment before production’s startup day.

What challenges do bakers face today when it comes to sanitation and maintenance?

Scheduling. Downtime is severely limited in many of the wholesale bakeries. In many cases, production lines are running six days a week. In some cases, there may only be a few hours in which to do the required in-depth cleaning and preventive maintenance and equipment repair. With the limited amount of downtime, sanitation and maintenance employees have to coexist in order to get the work done. There needs to be coordination between all departments on basic housekeeping during the production runs. You also need a stable workforce and trained personnel.

With limited time, proofer, ovens, and coolers should get the priority. The other things will affect the line’s efficiency, but these three things tend to affect your bottom line more.

How should bakeries plan for the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) next year?

Bakeries should put together a list of all upcoming capital equipment expenditures. They should first go online to the IBIE website to find out what equipment manufacturers are scheduled to be at IBIE. By preplanning their needs and determining which vendors they will want to see, they can possibly contact them in advance for a time to meet and discuss their concerns.

Consider who will attend the IBIE from their company. Sending an operations manager who has to operate the plant may be better than a purchasing person or controller that does not understand the manufacturing part of a plant. Sending some lead personnel working directly with the equipment and processes can be very educational. It will allow them to see other ideas in our industry and how they might improve their own plants’ operation and performance.

This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at www.powereng.com/food.

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