With production lines, slow and steady wins the race

by Nico Roesler
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High-speed splitting doesn’t require a pan to stop and maintains line speed while avoiding bottlenecks. SOURCE: Burford Corp.

There are a couple paradoxes in the baking industry when it comes to maximizing throughput of a production line and avoiding bottlenecks and downtime.

While producers want to get as much product out the door as possible, the key to getting consistent performance isn’t about cranking up machines to their maximum capacity. Rather, it’s about slowing things down to make sure everything works in tandem and certain machines don’t get overworked and break down.

Additionally, bakery lines are getting more complex with demands for more changeovers and a greater variety of products. To manage that complexity, keep things simple.

Technology is often the tool that does just that. Take the MX Mixer from Reading Bakery Systems (RBS). Older versions of the continuous mixer produced 600 lbs of dough per hour. But adding a hydrator to the top creates a premix, and the mixer can now produce 1,200 lbs per hour.

“What we try to do is to increase throughput but at the same time increase simplicity,” said Joe Zaleski, president, RBS. “We try to simplify machines but deliver the process a little bit faster with simpler components.”

While technology and automation seem synonymous, Shawn Moye, vice-president of sales, RBS, said the increase in automation over the past decade has taken the guesswork out of running equipment.

“We will continue to see this automation increase and in turn reduce downtime and increase efficiencies,” he said.

Ultimately, maximizing throughput comes down to reducing downtime and avoiding bottlenecks. Downtime can be attributed to cleaning, equipment repairs or equipment changeovers. Bottlenecks occur when various parts of a line have different throughput capabilities, creating accumulation upstream and potentially wasted product. Getting everything to work together for the perfect line speed might just mean ¬counterintuitively slowing things down.

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