Weighing ingredients just right
June 16, 2016
by Charlotte Atchley
Automating minor and micro ingredient handling provides repeatable precision weighing of ingredients.
Scaling accuracy poses one of the biggest challenges that comes with minor and micro ingredients. These ingredients are often hand-measured, added and recorded by an operator, and manual handling means room for human error.
“I would say the majority of US bakeries do micro ingredients by hand,” said Stephen Marquardt, sales director, food, Zeppelin. “We see a lot in the market now that shows the demand for automated minor ingredient handling is because of mis-weighment.”
Honest mistakes by operators when measuring ingredients such as salt can lead to serious issues in finished product quality and consistency. The opportunity for these errors increases as a plant’s capacity expands. At some point, the number of production lines and batches being produced per hour becomes too much for operators to hand-add on their own. In these instances, automation can help production stay efficient and accurate simultaneously.
“Most customers understand that they are going to increase output and accuracy,” said Doug Hale, Dunbar Systems. “The one comment we hear over and over again is that ‘we didn’t realize how many of our bad batches were being caused by minor ingredients.’ ”
By automating the weighment of minor and micro ingredients, bakers are guaranteed proper measuring and adding for every batch, thus improving product quality and consistency.
“If you have automated systems that allow you to have more control over that ingredient addition and confirming that the addition has taken place,” said John Hunter, sales account manager, baker supply systems, Buhler. “It also allows you to automate tying that ingredient addition into overall recipe control.”
Not only is accuracy and product quality improved, but labor savings exist, too. As is the case with all automation introductions, bakeries no longer have to rely on a worker to fulfill the task. “Labor costs can be reduced significantly, particularly if bulk bags are used for the larger of the minor ingredients,” said Bill Kearns, vice-president, engineering, Fred D. Pfening Co. “A bulk bag unloader array with scales and conveyors can be used to deliver these materials directly to the use point, eliminating hand dumping of bags into the mixer.”