Setting ovens right

by Dan Malovany
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Perhaps the most direct approach to baking involves long-run operations, which — once the process is set correctly — can often result in yields in the low- to mid-90th percentile on a good shift. Getting to that point, however, requires careful planning and precision tuning, suggested Scott McCally, product manager, thermal group, for Stewart Systems and Baker Thermal Solutions.

Starting out on the right foot is always a good first step on a high-volume line running a select number of items.

“If the product [being baked] is commissioned properly, the careful iterative testing measures taken to develop the default baking parameters for each recipe should only require change in special circumstances, such as formulation, equipment and/or process issues upstream of the oven,” Mr. McCally noted. “Under normal conditions, the oven should inherently produce the ideal product characteristics without any adjustment necessary.”

In today’s increasingly diverse market, however, the new normal is not 200 loaves a minute or 1,000 doz buns an hour. More often than not, even larger conventional sliced sandwich bread bakers find themselves competing against a gamut of premium, ethnic, wholesome and gluten-free options — and that’s only in the bread aisle.

Such a moving target is especially challenging when it comes to foodservice, where developing signature products for multiple customers provides the port of entry to that market. At the oven, where “set it and forget it” is the model for a consistent bake, multiple changeovers to achieve flexibility can wreak havoc on efficiency during a given shift. To adapt to these new realities, bakers are employing “smart scheduling” by combining the latest in programmable controls.

From a programmable perspective, recipe management at the operators’ fingertips provides one tool for success. That’s especially true if such menu-driven system controls can provide quick adjustments inside the oven to control oven temperature in between product runs, according to Shawn Moye, vice-president of sales, Americas, Reading Bakery Systems.

“As soon as the last product enters the oven, we have an automatic system throttle back the oven, reducing the overall baking profile,” he said. “This helps the oven equilibrate before the next product enters it. By doing this, we reduce product waste and get the oven back to its ideal product profile as quickly as possible. The operators have access to all recipes at the operator interface terminal so that with a touch of a button, they can set the required number of burners, damper positions, oven exhaust, bake times, blowers speeds and anything else directly related to the baking profile.”

Another determining factor requires pre-establishing optimal oven settings such as bake time and airflow — especially in indirect-fired or cyclothermic ovens for each product. “The oven will automatically adjust once the new recipe is selected to minimize the changeover time in the oven,” said Charles Foran, chairman, Babbco Inc.
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