Building in flexibility the theme of operations

by Dan Malovany
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Bakery conveyor
Keeping ho-hum systems like conveyors clean ultimately means less downtime.
 

When it comes to operations, even the smallest details are often ignored. Take conveyors, which are the Rodney Dangerfield of the baking industry because they get little respect. In high-speed bakeries, a thousand — sometimes even tens of thousands — of things can go wrong at any given minute. That’s no exaggeration, especially in some of the nation’s largest and most automated cookie facilities where a little snap, crackle or pop of a belt creates a waterfall of products tumbling to the floor. Bring out the shovels for animal feed.

Sometimes a little jogging — where the belt slips, grabs and moves — causes a cascade of crackers, creating a mess. And listen carefully for grinding, rattling, squeaking or other slight signs that the conveyor and its belt need tweaking.

One supplier recently told Baking & Snack that his dad, a baking industry veteran, likes to say the equipment always talks to everyone. Just listen for signs of trouble, he said. In many bakeries, even a tiny amount of belt breakage can cause a jam that plugs up the steady flow on conveyors. Yeah, boring conveyors, you think. But think again.

Another baker Baking & Snack visited over the last year admired how his team was standing around doing nothing. He loved it. That meant its operation was running as the company expected. When developing new products, bakers often focus on what type of mixers, makeup systems and ovens they need to buy — not always on how conveyors vitally link everything together. Building in flexibility has been the theme of operations for a few years. So has sanitary design. Keeping ho-hum systems like conveyors clean ultimately means less downtime. 
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