New flexible laminating lines allow bakers to start up quickly while reducing the amount of rework in the process.
 

In a bakery plant, efficiency is the name of the game. But it’s a word that can mean many different things in various areas of production. When making items such as cookies and sweet goods, it’s vital for bakers to waste as little dough as possible.

Sometimes that begins before equipment cranks up … other times even sooner.

“For Rademaker, it really starts for us up front before you even buy the line,” said Eric Riggle, president, Rademaker USA. “Bakers must understand the entire process so they don’t put together a line and then suddenly think of another product they have to make and wind up with 35% rework when they can only use 20% back into the process.”

If dough will be left behind, the goal should be trim or reclaim — that which can be reused — as opposed to scrap or waste, which eventually winds up as animal feed. While it’s important for bakers to keep waste top of mind in any area of production, there are some simple things they should keep in mind to put as much dough to use as possible.

Starting up, changing over

When focusing on minimizing waste, start-up and changeovers often stand out. To address this issue, Rademaker designs its equipment for simple setup.

“We sat down with our customers and watched how they use our machines and set them up,” Mr. Riggle said. “We discovered that the easier, more repeatable and more consistent we can make it, then right out of the gate, bakers can save themselves money every day with quicker changeovers.”

To achieve this objective, Rademaker designed its equipment to allow operators to quickly set up a process with minimal scrap at the start-up.

“This means the same product is made each and every time versus trial and error at the setup phase,” Mr. Riggle explained. The company’s new universal makeup line incorporates a Tooling Assistant Guide on the HMI that shows the user exactly what coded tool goes where in setting up the machine.

For Handtmann, Inc., quick-release designs and custom-made tools simplify and speed up disassembly and cleaning of its cookie depositors, said Cesar Zelaya, bakery sales and technology manager. In some cases, there is just going to be unused dough in the equipment, no matter how many steps a baker takes to minimize it. At that point, the best bet is to get it cleaned out as quickly as possible and move on to the next product with the least amount of downtime.

“Our depositors have a cleaning mode that will remove all the dough in the equipment and speed up the disassembly and sanitation for the next product,” he said.

Franz Haas Machinery of America also places a heavy emphasis on equipment that’s easy to clean for quick changeovers.

“We’re trying wherever possible to make changeovers tool-less so it’s more operator-friendly,” said Kevin Knott, technical sales manager, Franz Haas. “We go as far as possible to make rollers and food contact parts more accessible and easy to remove for the operator.”

Jim Fontaine, bakery specialist, Reiser, advised bakers to think strategically to limit changeovers.

“The best strategy is using sales history and forecasting tools to schedule production efficiently,” he said.

For cookie production, Reading Bakery Systems offers specific features for both wirecut and rotary moulders that keep changeovers to a minimum. A spare wirecut head lifts the frame and cart, enabling the operator to easily remove the head and replace it with a clean one.

“This is different from the old days, when the baker would run out the previous dough with the new dough,” said Sam Pallottini, director of cookie, cracker and pet food sales, Reading Bakery Systems.

Additionally, Reading’s rotary moulder design enables quick die removal and belt replacement.

“Dedicated belts enable customers to select those that work best with the type of dough they’re running, thus minimizing scrap,” he said.

Rotary moulding systems now provide quick die removal and belt replacement to limit downtime.
 
Weight control

Another key to keeping waste down is avoiding weight fluctuations.

“Scrap is not limited to side trim; it can also come from waste in over- and underweight products or those out of specification due to size or shape variance,” Mr. Riggle suggested.

To help control weight, Rheon lines come equipped with load cells in the conveyors.

“We work to hone in on the weight control,” said John Giacoio, vice-president of sales, Rheon. “Our load cells weigh it, guillotine it and then check the weight. Then it’s all sent back to the computer, which constantly makes adjustments to stay on target.”

For cookies, Franz Haas’ depositor/extruder/wirecut machine has a pair of pump rotors to eliminate weight variation across the width, said Mr. Knott. Dough chunkers and kibblers also aid in evenly distributing the dough through the hopper.

“We also pay attention to the conveyors feeding the hopper, and in most cases, we use three level sensors — one on each side and one in the center — to maintain an even pile of dough in the hopper,” he said.

At Reading, filler blocks and dies are designed with tight tolerances, according to Mr. Pallottini. “A properly designed, manufactured and fitted filler block is the key to proper dough weight,” he said. “And the next step is that the die must provide the required back pressure to stabilize the flow of the dough.”

Meanwhile, Reiser works to control cookie dough weight with its waterwheel design. “This allows accurate scaling across the depositing head,” Mr. Fontaine said.

Systems such as load cells monitor the weight of dough pieces to ensure consistency.
 
Sheeting, laminating

When it comes to minimizing waste, no area may be more important than sheeting and laminating. This is not only because of the obvious issue with side trim, but it’s also an area that creates opportunities for controlling the dough.

“It’s important to pay attention to process control and preventing doughs from bunching and stretching so there’s an even or low stress on the dough as it’s being sheeted,” Mr. Knott noted. “Anytime you see a dough sheet being pulled, you’re putting it in tension, or if it’s folding or lapping in front of the rollers, we have created some turbulence in the dough. Paying attention to this can reduce scrap.”

Rheon actually goes about sheeting in a more non-traditional way in an effort to reduce the stress on the dough. The company uses a stretcher, which has multiple rollers that run in an elliptical pattern. However, the rollers are not what reduce the thickness of the dough.

“The stretcher has three conveyor belts, and each one is moving faster than the one before,” Mr. Giacoio said. “It’s pulling the dough through, which reduces the deflection on the rollers because it’s not just using the rollers to reduce the thickness.”

This gradual reduction minimizes the deflection, ultimately reducing the trim, he said.

To avoid deflection, Rademaker designs equipment with standard 10-inch rollers and an option for 16-inch, which creates a sturdier design. And, Mr. Riggle noted, some bakers are actually using laminating to even out inconsistencies in dough.

“It doesn’t work for every dough, but creating layers via lamination could give structure to the product,” he said.

Laminating also can allow the operator to control the width of the dough sheet.

“It gives some flexibility versus a straight sheeting line,” Mr. Riggle suggested. “Let’s say you have a meter-wide sheeting line that’s straight; it’s always a meter. But if you add an element of lamination, you can be flexible with the width to where you can minimize the waste or recycled dough.”

That said, “We always caution that we don’t want to change the product for the sake of laminating,” Mr. Riggle noted.

Ensuring accurate scaling of cookie dough minimizes waste that ultimately helps improve a company’s bottom line.
 
Feed and refeed

One big difference between trim and waste is what you do with it. If a baker can reuse the dough, then scrap — and ultimately money — is saved. More than ever, bakers are searching for new ways to reuse dough.

While certain types of cookie production might not create much scrap dough, some types such as rotary cut can.

“Rotary-cut cookies can produce around 30% rework, depending on the die layout,” Mr. Pallottini said. “Reading has designed a system to feed this dough directly into the back half of the sheeting head to minimize any scrap.”

Reclaiming dough depends on a number of factors, Mr. Zelaya said.

“Depending on dough formulation and ingredients present, processing time and percentage generated, some dough can be more susceptible to accepting scrap,” he said, noting that doughs with inclusions are not always rework-friendly. Decreasing the temperature of the scrap dough is helpful, he added.

Mr. Knott made a similar observation.

“In some cases, it helps with the continuous process to heat the return on scrap dough,” he said. “Typically during the sheeting process, the dough cools down. And in a lot of cases, we like to add heaters to the rework to process it more easily into the fresh dough; it mixes easier if it’s a little warmer.”

Additionally, bakers must be mindful of fat, especially in laminated sweet goods, as it can affect the formulation or product quality.

Mr. Fontaine suggested that reclaimed dough can be added back in up to 5% in the final stage of mixing if there is enough time for even dispersion.

Another issue is lot traceability in the event of a recall, and Mr. Fontaine advised that reclaimed dough should be used in same-day production for tracking purposes. Any dough held overnight for reuse, he said, must take both the formula and lot tracking into consideration.

“For example, shortbread could be held and mixed in the following day, but the dough should then be treated as an ingredient and given its own lot number,” he said. “This will link the scrap to the previous day’s production and lot numbers for that dough so it can be traced properly.”

Controlling waste will ultimately manage not only cost but also quality. By looking at the overall process, asking the right questions up front and thinking a little outside the box, bakers can come up with new solutions to keep the waste at bay.