Portioning for profits

by Charlotte Atchley
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As the needs of bakers evolve, so do the capabilities of dividers. “The divider of today is far more advanced than the divider of 10 years ago,” said John McIsaac, vice-president, strategic business development, Reiser, Canton, MA. These advances amount to design changes that streamline sanitation and maintenance of the equipment as well as improvements in the act of dividing itself whether that’s enhanced accuracy or handling of a wider variety of doughs.

Food safety scares and proposed Food Safety Modernization Act regulations have sanitation at the forefront of bakers’ minds. These days, production lines move faster than ever before, and dividers are no exception. Cyril Munsch, director of sales, The Mecatherm Group, Barembach, France, said the company’s single-pocket divider can reach speeds of up to 2,500 pieces per hour while the two-pocket divider can output up to 5,000 pieces per hour. Changing consumer tastes now shifting from conventional buns to those with artisan flair mean bakery operators are making more and more changeovers. With that comes more downtime that the industry continuously tries to reduce in an effort to save money.

Bakers also are constantly trying to boost profits and reduce downtime, and dividers that are easy to maintain and clean and produce accurate portions can help with that. As more bakers try to get more bang for their buck out of their production lines, they need dividers that can properly portion doughs of varying absorptions and inclusions. With dividers that can do it all, and do it ­accurately, bakers can offer their customers a wealth of options in quality products.

Juggling variety

Many of the changes dividers have undergone in the past few years focus on gentle dough handling as well as the ability to adjust to various dough consistencies. To meet customers’ needs, bakers are expanding their product portfolios and looking for any way to maximize the efficiency of their product lines. This leaves them on the prowl for flexible equipment.

As Gemini/KB Systems, Philadelphia, has seen its clients broaden their roll and bread formulations, the company adapted its specialty roll dividers to handle the diversification. “The gourmet round and sandwich roll is becoming more popular coast to coast, requiring us to handle much wider weight ranges with the same equipment,” said Mark Rosenberg, founder and CEO. It is clear that the traditional soft bun and bread bakeries are now wanting to produce more of a specialty product, while the specialty bakeries are looking to produce gourmet rolls and bread with extended shelf life and many more sizes and shapes.

As bakers try to handle doughs with much wider ranges of water absorption and formulations all on one divider, Gemini’s roll machines can be adjusted to ­accommodate these requests. “We can also supply customized dividing pistons and rounding drums targeted to a client’s specific product and formula,” he added.

As demand for gourmet sandwiches continues to grow in the retail and foodservice market, Mr. Rosenberg said Gemini’s bakery clients are continually trying to meet the need for a much larger variety of gourmet hearth and pan buns. This requires bread and roll dividers that can handle richer doughs with higher absorptions and extended fermentation times as well as more traditional formulas.

When designing its new line of Flex dividers, AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, VA, had this kind of product versatility in mind. Bakers can make a plethora of products in these dividers at a lower overall cost, according to Bruce Campbell, vice-president.

While bakers continue to juggle these soft and well-fermented artisan doughs with stiff frozen and par-baked formulations, equipment manufacturers have to accommodate those specifications. To do that, Koenig Bakery Systems, Ashland, VA, equipped its dividers with adjustable pressure settings and piston sizes. This helps bakers reach the gentle dough handling they want while achieving the high weight accuracy and capacities.

“Koenig’s industrial dividers can be equipped with systems that allow adjustment of the dividing pressure individually for each recipe, which is a precondition to achieve the requested dough structure, especially with soft doughs,” said Richard Breeswine, general manager, Koenig Bakery Systems.

High-absorption doughs need this soft touch to maintain the structure developed during fermentation. When bakers use ancient grains and particulate inclusions in their products, gentle dividing preserves those ingredients. With this in mind, Handtmann developed its dividing technology to reduce friction while also preventing the breaking and smearing of inclusions.

To enable stress-free dividing, Rheon USA, Irvine, CA, eliminated mechanical force in its V4 Stress Free divider. The equipment uses the company’s gravimetric method to weight and cut. This system divides well-­fermented dough without affecting its specific gravity and maintains the hard-earned dough structure.

Switching between different doughs in a divider is as simple as making adjustments to the pistons. The RS-A, sold in the US by Cinch Bakery Equipment, Clifton, NJ, presses dough into its dividing chambers by the main ram. With adjustments to the stroke and pressure of the main piston, the RS-A can adapt chamber conditions to the needs of the specific dough type.

Jay Moynihan, technical director, WP Bakery Group USA, Shelton, CT, said the ability to control the process has expanded the range of doughs the company’s dividers can process. The company offers several dividers to meet bakers’ demanding requirements, all capable of high capacities, precise scaling and handling various dough absorptions. Its Kemper SoftStar Divider Rounder, a universal dough divider, handles doughs with gentle treatment using servo motors for pressure compensation and adapts to a variety of downstream production layouts. The WP Winkler Admiral Divider Rounder also provides quick change capabilities for fast changeover times.

Keeping things running

As equipment manufacturers update their dividing technology, streamlining design for cleaning and upkeep is a priority. “Maintenance and sanitation have become major issues for industrial bakeries today,” said Cindy Chananie, president, Cinch Bakery Equipment and the US representative of Seilnacht Bakery Equipment. “Older technology requires a lot of downtime to clean and maintain. When machines are being serviced, they’re obviously not in production, and this translates into loss of money for industrial bakeries.” To shorten some of that necessary downtime, older equipment needs upgrades, which can include washdown capabilities or eliminating some moving parts.

When considering a more modern divider/­rounder, Rolf Seilnacht, formerly the chief engineer for the Winkler Admiral divider/rounder, wanted to reduce the time and effort needed to service the machine, according to Ms. Chananie. In the redesign, the RS-A was separated into two machines, a divider and rounder. Mr. Seilnacht engineered the new RS-A Divider to work without chains, eliminating a major maintenance headache. The divider is also built with stainless steel and plastic components and runs on a servo motor.

Mecatherm takes an accessibility approach with drives and motors by installing them on the side of the divider and putting the control panel on a hinged mounting. An operator can also easily remove the belt for cleaning. Making equipment more accessible ensures faster sanitation and maintenance. Shorter downtime means faster changeovers between the plethora of products bakers are making on their lines, Mr. Munsch said.

Streamlining design is also the latest development in Reiser’s patented waterwheel flow divider. This design includes fewer parts and simpler reassembly than previous machines, easing the burden of maintenance. Reiser also made the pockets of the divider larger, resulting in slower speeds with the same output as previous designs. This puts less work on the dough and, in turn, less wear on the equipment.

According to Mr. Moynihan doughs with higher absorptions, increased fats and sugars and dough enhancing enzymes can all influence divider performance. Doughs with high gluten content or inclusions can shorten the life of the equipment running them. Stiff doughs, such as those for bagels or frozen dough items, can reduce divider performance.

Mr. Seilnacht designed the RS Divider to handle that wear, Ms. Chananie explained. When the RS Divider runs without moulding, it can divide at 100 strokes per minute, which is ideal for bagel producers who only need a precisely scaled dough piece to forward onto a bagel former.

To stand up to these difficult doughs, Handtmann, Lake Forest, IL, designed its dividers to move dough gently through the unit without swirling. This reduces friction as well as wear on the equipment.

Maintenance and sanitation often go hand-in-hand. Improvements that make machines easier to service also can make them easier to clean. For example, getting rid of gears and chains or using open-frame design provides easy access to previously hard-to-reach places. As a part of its new Flex line of dividers, AMF Bakery Systems implemented specific sanitation procedures. These new dividers can be cleaned without the use of tools, speeding up the process. According to Mr. Campbell, the BredFlex can be cleaned in less than 15 minutes without tools.

Washdown sanitation procedures also speed up the cleaning regimen. To answer the growing concerns about sanitation and food safety, Handtmann’s dividers are washdown capable and comply with the highest ­hygienic standards in the industry, said Cesar Zelaya, bakery technology manager, Handtmann.

WP Bakery Group USA automated its cleaning system for the WP Haton V900 divider. The company’s dividers also eliminate worries about excess oil with catch trays and high-pressure oiling systems that minimize oil usage. The conveyors are also removable for easier cleaning.

Ensuring specific weights

Above all else, a divider must be consistently accurate. An inaccurate divider loses money. “The divider is where money is made or lost,” Mr. McIsaac said. “This is why it is often referred to as the ‘cash register.’ ” While over-scaling can give product away, under-scaling can cause regulatory issues for bakers. Flexibility, ease of sanitation and maintenance — those are great things to have in a divider, but if the equipment cannot precisely portion a dough, it won’t be of much use.

Today’s high production costs drive accuracy even more to the forefront of bakers’ minds. “Our customers tell us that because of ever-increasing ingredient costs, consistent dough weights that can also reliably meet higher product quality demands are now not only more important but have become a basic performance requirement for new equipment,” Mr. Zelaya said.

Handtmann addresses this issue with its patented vane cell design and a short travel path. As well as ensuring precise portioning, this system also is capable of handling delicate inclusions and reducing stress on the dough.

With an adjustable main piston, Auburn, WA-based Belshaw Adamatic’s dividers can adjust to ensure accurate scaling while minimizing punishment of the dough. This maintains product integrity while cutting waste.

Double-screw pumping technology, employed by Reiser’s Vemag dough divider, repeatedly produces an accurate weight portion. “We use a combination of vacuum and an infeed system to make sure we gently but completely fill the double screw,” Mr. McIsaac explained. “Once it is full, we use servo control to accurately and precisely turn the double screw and dispense an exact weight portion time after time.”

AMF has made scaling virtually automatic with the recipe management system on its Flex line of dividers, Mr. Campbell explained. The HBDFlex for high-speed bun and tortilla production, the RollFlex for variety bun lines and the BreadFlex dividers are designed with very simple operating procedures that allow accurate production with a small amount of operator adjustment required.

AMF partnered with Bakery Systems Inc., St. Louis,  to include checkweighers on bread and bun lines to ensure bakers have the perfect weights in the pan. These checkweighers not only improve accuracy but also ­record data on each dough ball that can improve production efficiency.

WP Bakery Group also has the capability to employ a checkweigher with its V700 Dough Divider. Although the divider is capable of accurately dividing long-­fermented doughs, the company offers the checkweigher for any necessary weight corrections as a failsafe. The V900 divider measures the dough and divides it by adjustable hydraulic pressure, which enables precision at high capacities. 

Improving efficiency and saving money are what upgrading equipment is all about, and the divider offers bakers several opportunities. Whether it’s simplifying maintenance and sanitation or ensuring accurate weight measurements, the right divider can save bakers on downtime and product waste. And the more products bakers try to make on one line, the more diverse ­dividers need to become with adjustable pressure and pistons that enable the portioning of everything from par-baked to artisan products.                                           


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