A formula for a successful start-up

by Jim Kline
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Bread Start-up
A well-structured start-up will ensure production line efficiency.

KANSAS CITY — Whether starting up a new line or process or starting back up after scheduled downtime (for maintenance and sanitation or alignment of production schedules), successful start-ups do not happen by accident. They require clear expectations and definition of the steps necessary to achieve the goal.

Jim Kline
Jim Kline, president, The EnSol Group
For new process equipment, a good first step is involving the equipment manufacturer. This is the time to ask questions, especially what the vendor needs from the plant for an efficient start-up. The manufacturer should be able to define the preparation required, the steps to be taken and an expected timeline for the operation.
Starting up standalone equipment or an entire process line first requires commissioning the equipment and the thorough checkout and operation of it before it is placed into production.

A well-structured start-up is one that ensures the production line is prepared to start up efficiently at the designated time. If you have ever had the first dough delayed because an ingredient system was not operating, a dough had to be left “hanging” because the proofer or oven was not at temperature, or the pans were not cycling, then you know how important it is to have the checks completed in advance of the first dough being mixed. Pre-checking systems makes certain any minor issues can be addressed prior to start-up and promises all equipment is performing at operating conditions. It is not uncommon to have the start-up check initiated four hours in advance, but the timing is very process dependent.

The pre-start check is more than a simple walk-through. Sequentially, a multi-disciplined team (maintenance, sanitation and operations) should start, test, set and monitor each component in the production line from ingredient handling through packaging. The process should be documented with a specific list that provides the checkpoints and operational specifications and requires verification of each item, as well as documentation of tests performed and the operational settings for the equipment.

For ingredient handling, test draws from automated systems like flour, sugar and liquids. In mixing, confirm the flour sock, by checking the scaling hopper connection to the mixer, and vent sock, if used, are properly aligned and clamped in place. Verify the mixer refrigeration system is operational. Cycle pans through the pan loop and include a check of the pan release applicator, or if you are using peel boards, cycle them through and include a check of the cornmeal applicator and recovery systems. Check the rail guides, conveyor belts and switch functionality. Inspect the depanner vacuum belt and cups, and verify all settings. In packaging, establish line speeds, produce sample packages and set package coding, and verify it against code requirements for that day. Confirm the setup of carton and tray handling systems and simulate production to guarantee functionality.

Preparing for routine equipment start-up following scheduled downtime period also requires preparation. To begin, you need to know what work was performed during downtime by maintenance, sanitation or outside vendors. This provides specific information for inspection. These checks should consider the following: Could modifications result in debris or parts being inadvertently left in the equipment or in adjacent areas? Were components lubricated? Do lubrication points need inspection? Could changes that were made alter line performance?

Though a well-structured start-up procedure would be expected to pick up these points, focusing on adjusted, changed or altered points goes a long way in providing a smooth start-up.

The only thing that remains to perfect your start-up preparation is to learn from it. Review what went right and what didn’t, and adjust the equipment and process checks accordingly.
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