Depositors: Spot On
December 1, 2010
by Shane Whitaker
New products bring new challenges. Gluten-free baked foods have risen in popularity recently, and they present a new set of issues for wholesale bakeries, according to Stewart MacPherson, vicepresident, sales and marketing, Unifiller Systems, Inc., Delta, BC. As it relates to depositing, he noted that the biggest issue is that gluten-free batters have very high viscosities. “It is a challenge to our accuracy for drawing product into the metering chamber and then placing the product where you want it and getting clean cutoff,” Mr. MacPherson explained.
However, Unifiller helps processors overcome these issues by assisting them in selecting the correct depositor for gluten-free products. “We have a range of different depositors, and it’s a matter of matching up the right model for the application,” he added. “It’s also having the right port, or piston, sizes and then making the proper adjustment.”
Depositing big chunks and inclusions is another challenge that bakers encounter with depositors, observed John McIsaac, vice-president, strategic business development, Reiser, Canton, MA. “Just when we think people have found the biggest chocolate piece or nut, someone comes along with something bigger,” he said. “We have made design changes to allow these big chunks to flow more easily and maintain their integrity.”
However, deposit weight accuracy continues to be the No. 1 concern for most processors. They want to ensure that each and every deposit is consistent and accurate. Also, processors desire durable depositors that are flexible and versatile, as well as easy to use, sanitize and maintain.
Achieving consistent scaling weights with depositors remains a major challenge for bakeries, according to Bob Peck, vice-president of engineering, E.T. Oakes Corp., Hauppauge, NY. Snack cake pans can feature more than 60 cavities in which batter is dosed, and processors can have trouble maintaining individual weight accuracies in each cavity. To help them with this, Oakes recently developed a new cake depositing system with several innovative features to ensure better weight tolerances.
The cake depositor uses a pressurized manifold as opposed to piston depositors, and “whatever gets pumped into the manifold gets distributed out,” he explained. The company uses Micro Motion mass flow meters to measure exactly how much batter is pumped into the manifold, which ensures its total accuracy. However, because the depositor is often making a series of doses, the batter must be equally distributed across the manifold.
When batter enters the manifold, a series of distribution valves that the company sets equalizes pressure across the manifold to ensure accurate deposits across the width of the machine. “Once they are set, whatever comes in comes out of it,” Mr. Peck said. “It is just a one-time adjustment to fine-tune the pressure drop across the manifold.”
The Smart Accumulator is a new feature that sits atop the manifold and retains constant pressure in the manifold at all times. Without the Smart Accumulator, pressure builds up between pans, and the first row of a pan would have heavier deposit weights, according to Mr. Peck.
The Micro Motion mass flow meters also can measure the specific gravity of cake batter, and if the density varies, the depositor can make the necessary adjustments to keep scaling weights within a certain tolerance. “The mass flow meter makes it a closed-loop system,” Mr. Peck added. “We know the feedback coming in, and therefore, we can control the feedback coming out.”
Most bakers are looking for reliable equipment with good deposit accuracy, according to Bill Everett, sales support manager, The Peerless Group, Sidney, OH. “Bakers do not want to be bothered with frequent downtime to repair their depositors,” he said. “They want to know that their depositor will run 24/7 and give consistent deposits from the day they purchase the machine and for many years thereafter.”
To this end, the manufacturer’s most popular depositor is the Fedco-branded “W” Series piston depositor, which it has offered for more than 25 years. “Customers like this model because it is produces consistent scaling, is extremely reliable and is flexible enough to handle many different pan sizes and applications,” Mr. Everett noted.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE.
When asked what quality bakers most desire from their depositors, Unifiller’s Mr. MacPherson said, “In a word, I would say simplicity. That is the word that comes to top of mind.
“In surveys that we have carried out with existing customers, almost hands down what they appreciate most about the equipment is simplicity, the ease of use,” he continued. “It’s easy to clean and easy to maintain. It also has to be fast and accurate, of course.”
Unifiller’s design philosophy is to use as few parts as possible when developing depositors, and Mr. MacPherson said the company has a motto in engineering that is, “Perfection is finally obtained not when anything else can be added but when there is nothing else that can be taken away.”
“If you take a machine apart for cleaning and you count the number of parts that you have, we typically have a design that has 40% fewer parts. That’s less parts to clean, to dismantle and to reassemble, and it’s 40% fewer parts to damage or lose,” he noted. “And the same is true with pneumatics. If we can make something with two valves rather than three or four, then we try to make it work with less, so there is less maintenance. If you can build a machine with two valves rather than four, then you have 50% fewer components that could possibly fail.”
Hinds-Bock Corp. also is driven to develop more user-friendly depositors, according to Lance Aasness, vice-president of sales and marketing for the Bothell, WA-based equipment manufacturer. “If it isn’t easy to operate, employees don’t want to use it,” he added. “We make it easy to use.”
Hinds-Bock depositors feature tool-free spout centerline adjustment to make changeovers extremely quick. An operator simply pulls a lever and slides the spout to the new position. Also, recipe-driven PLCs on its depositors allow processors to change settings by entering a recipe or SKU number into the operator interface, eliminating the need to make multiple adjustments.
The supplier also has responded to customers’ needs for greater durability, by using high-grade stainless steel and designing its equipment to run three shifts per day, according to Mr. Aasness. “We design our equipment to last for decades,” he added.
Unifiller has continually improved its multi-piston depositors, and for approximately the past year, it has been offering more heavy-duty machines, according to Mr. MacPherson. Its multi-piston depositors are almost always built on cantilever stands, or C-shaped frames, that can be wheeled over existing conveyors. Built-in height adjustment makes the depositors versatile for bakeries that want to move the machine from one line to another. “More and more it seems they want depositors to have more versatility and quick changeover,” he said.
FLEXIBLE AND CLEANABLE.
For bakeries making multiple products with a single depositor, Peerless supplies machines that are flexible enough to run many different baked foods. “Through slight design changes, we have been able to run as many as 12 different styles of pans through our depositor successfully for one particular customer,” Mr. Everett said. Bakers generally need to be able to produce a wide range of products, thus great importance is placed on rapid changeover, according to Harald Bechmann, content manager and senior editor, marketing department, Franz Haas Waffelund Keksanlagen-Industrie GmbH, Leobendorf, Austria. “It should be easy to switch all machines from one production to another without too long downtime,” he said.
The Haas-Meincke V50 depositor is highly flexible, he said. It can deposit, wire-cut or extrude up to three different masses on a single machine, allowing “nearly unlimited possibilities for expanding the product range,” Mr. Bechmann pointed out.
“The V50 system is not only the most flexible depositing and extruding system on the world market, it is also the system with the highest capacity and accuracy, therefore keeping waste during production at a minimum,” he added.
Reiser’s Mr. McIsaac also cited versatility as a key quality for depositors. “No one wants a single machine for a single job,” he said. “They want depositors that can run today’s multiple products and easily adapt to tomorrow’s.”
The equipment supplier makes its systems modular, allowing them to easily adapt to new products, Mr. McIsaac pointed out. “For a growing cookie manufacturer, we can offer the single high-speed outlet for today,” he explained. “When the business grows, we can substitute in multiple outlets. The base machine, and the investment made in it, remains in use. … [Bakers want] to rapidly adapt their depositing technologies to new opportunities, while retaining the value they have invested in their machines.”
Sanitation and ease of cleaning is another topic Reiser hears about more and more from its customers, according to Mr. McIssac, who noted that the company designs its machines to the highest levels of hygiene.
Mr. Bechmann also stressed that machines must be easy to clean and feature a hygienic design, adding that bakeries pay great attention to how quickly and easily parts are accessible for daily cleaning.
Manufacturer of depositors have responded to the needs of bakers, offering a wide range of systems capable of overcoming many of the challenges that bakeries encounter.