Bakery Tech Tips: Bust That Myth
How to solve those frustrating problems and operational issues that always seem to occur when the bakery engineer is never around.
BakingBusiness.com, February 2012
by Jeff Dearduff

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Have you ever had one of those problems in the bakery that you can’t put your finger on? You know the one, that nagging issue that only rears its ugly head when you’re not looking. You spend time standing by the system waiting for the fault to appear and nothing happens. Then as soon as you walk away, boom! You are called right back to the scene.

Some problems are so weird that they are almost mythical. Sometimes you just feel a problem is almost imaginary. After a 12-hour day chasing an elusive problem, tell me you haven’t try to sneak around a corner and catch an issue as if it has a mind of its own.

So what can we do if we run into one of these imaginary and elusive types of issues? You wish you could call in the team from Discovery Channel’s MythBusters to help determine if what you are hearing about is plausible, could be confirmed or ultimately busted. Although it would be fun to get Adam, Jamie and the kids over to the bakery to help out, how do we take how these MythBusters think and use similar methods for solving our bakery problems?

The team at MythBusters will take on just about anything, but they rely on only one fundamental approach to resolving every situation: They simulate. They take the myth, try to understand what is behind it, and then they run experiments to determine the feasibility, or plausibility as they call it. There are many opportunities where we can do very similar activities to prove or disprove what is causing strange problems in our bakeries. We just need to take it upon ourselves to really want to do it, not just talk about it.

While in production, you wouldn’t want to take the risks involved in experimenting, or simulating the problem on the line, but you can certainly plan for what tests you might want to run when you get to the next down day. Spend time at the scene and take in all the different movements, sounds and smells. Ask operators what they think rather than what they know. Let your brain run a little wild inside your skull. Remember, no one needs to know what you’re thinking at this point. This exercise will help to assemble the process for a simulating the problem and developing a plan to dispel the myth or confirm it.

If you have a hunch that you are dealing with an electronic controls issue, you’re probably heading in the right direction. You can always set up a spare PLC on the bench, drop in a program and add a variety of inputs that can be used to simulate the activity from the production line. Sometimes you can determine that when two sensors are made simultaneously, your problem arises. A simple fix out on the line could result from testing like this on the bench. Nine times out of 10, these mysterious equipment problems are the result of problems with PLCs, sensors and timer settings, especially with the level of automation we use in our bakeries today.

So next time you are dealing with the problem that never shows up when you’re looking for, but it never goes away, think like the MythBusters do and make a plan to confirm your myth, or bust it.