Freedom in flexibility

by Charlotte Atchley
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If a baker sticks to the principle of processing similar flatbreads on the same line, changeovers should not be too complicated. “Really, in flatbread, there isn’t a tremendous amount of changeover because you’re just talking about a cutter change,” said Eric Riggle, vice-president, Rademaker USA, Hudson, OH. Being able to switch out those cutters and other features quickly, however, can keep production moving and reduce downtime.

Rademaker’s unique fit tooling helps make that possible. This tooling ensures a Rademaker line can only be disassembled and reassembled one way, the right way, every time. This prevents tools from being assembled incorrectly, which can cause inaccuracy at the cutter, therefore waste, as well as cause damage to the machine. “From a changeover perspective it really cuts down on the amount of time and skill required because every tool is clearly marked,” Mr. Riggle said. “Because of the make-up process, you can have four or five different tool sets that make a product, and it’s important that all these work in harmony and are put in together at the right time.”

Cutters that can be replaced without the use of tools simplify and speed up the changeover process. The Kaak Group’s tooling only requires one person for change out without the use of tools. Having multiple cutting stations available can also speed up changeovers.

“One or more cutting stations can be unused while one is being used For the fastest changeovers, you simply change cutting stations, and you’re making a different product,” David Moline, sales and marketing manager, Moline Machinery, Duluth, MN.

After the operator makes the tooling changes, then recipe control system can also reduce downtime by making its changes automatically. With all the settings on the line controlled by a computer, as each different product is selected, those changes are made, and the product specifications will be consistently met throughout production, according to Nigel Morris, director of sales for DrieM Dough Sheeting, Kaak Group, represented by Naegele Inc. Bakery Systems, Alsip, IL.

Recipe management enables regulation of proofer conditions, belt speed and other line adjustments all by computer, eliminating any human error. “The rest of the line really sets itself,” Mr. Riggle said.

Tromp Group’s lines are all PLC-controlled and, when requested, provide automatic recipe-related changes. The Netherlands-based company offers an automatic flour filling unit and cutter changing.

Flatbread lines with adjustable dough widths help bakers fit the dough to the product. This improves efficiency and reduces waste. Rheon’s flexible divider features the ability to adjusts widths, which allows the divider to handle long products and narrow ones as well. “That stress-free divider allows you to tailor the dough sheet width to the actual product that you’re making up,” said John Giacoio, national sales manager, Rheon USA, Irvine, CA. “When you get to more narrow products, you don’t have to put down that wide dough sheet and take a lot of trim.”

Koenig’s newest sheeting and laminating line, the Menes, also comes with a unique dough belt former with width adjustment feature to create a homogeneous dough sheet.  Its dough former can handle dough hydrations from 50% to 85%.  Its Twin Sat feature reduces the dough with minimum stress, which also means bakers can create a wide variety of products with different dough structures.  Flatbreads made with the Twin Sat gentle dough handling system can be fed directly into a tunnel oven without proofing.

Flexibility is critical when it comes to an efficient flatbread line. It helps bakers meet their throughput demands with efficiency. However, flexibility and efficiency don’t do much good if product quality suffers because of them. Equipment that lends itself to fast changeovers needs to still deliver a quality product and do so consistently.

Width adjustment plays a part in that. Trim removed after pieces are cut from the dough sheet has to go somewhere, and it’s usually reworked back into the dough. Too much of this rework can compromise the final dough structure.

“The adjustment on the dough width helps quite a bit with the trim, the webbing, the waste,” Mr. Giacoio said. “Of course, bakers don’t want to throw that dough away. They want to work it back in the dough without affecting quality.”

By matching the dough band width to product size, bakers can reduce the amount of trim that needs to be reworked, therefore, ensuring dough quality remains consistent.

Developing and maintaining the proper dough structure are key to ensuring quality, which is what sheeting and laminating is all about. “This even structure is essential for a correct shape after baking and will have a positive influence on the shelf life of the product,” said Paul Rooijmans, sales manager, Tromp Group. “It also will take care that you will not have any holes in the product, and the coloring will be even.”

The company’s low-stress system creates a fine, even dough structure, and the three-roll extruder can rework trim dough back into the dough sheet.  

For products that need to be proofed, being able to process the entire dough sheet at once instead of as individual dough pieces results in better quality, shape, softness and eatability according to Matt Zielsdorf, president, Fritsch USA. “Proofing the complete dough sheet also means you have re-work that has already been proofed, and re-incorporating this in the virgin dough enhances the flavor of the product,” he said.

And if at any time in the process, quality suffers, automation and computer controls can help right the system. The Handtmann Communication Unit (HCU) software option controls, monitors and optimizes production on the company’s flatbread lines. The software collects data related to standard production, shift performance and downtimes all in an effort to pinpoint problem areas and improve production efficiency and product quality.

And production efficiency and product quality are the two goals bakers and equipment suppliers aim for when it comes to baking flatbreads.

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