Flexible bakery operations
When it comes to production, flexibility and efficiency don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

KANSAS CITY — In today’s competitive market, flexibility is a high priority for bakers, snack manufacturers and their customers. Right behind ease of sanitation is equipment designed for quick changeovers, which incidentally can go hand-in-hand with sanitation.

A flexible plant allows operators to make a wide variety of products on the fewest amount of production lines. The more versatile the operation, the more attractive it is to potential customers, especially those looking for a co-manufacturer. And it’s true, a well-planned, well-run highly-flexible bakery or snack facility can be very profitable and bring in otherwise unattainable opportunities. If not run properly, however, a bakery trying to juggle too many products can get bogged down and overwhelmed. After all, efficiency should not be sacrificed on the altar of flexibility.

“You have to be nimble to deal with these orders and the shortness of the runs,” said Jim Myrick, senior vice-president, global operations for Synergetics.

Changeovers introduce the opportunity for problems to arise in a bakery.

“If it’s a bread bakery, you have issues with pans, allergen cleaning, re-adjusting oven and proofer settings and packaging,” said Bob White, president, Focus-Works. “Operations like dessert cake plants have this as a way of life. Add to their list of issues changing the floor inventory items, putting away unused inventory items and packaging items, and moving in and out specialized equipment.”

Maintaining efficient production while juggling many different products depends on limiting changeovers, sanitation, maintenance or breakdowns.

“Two common challenges in maintaining efficiency while running multiple products on one extrusion line are minimizing downtime for product changeover and ensuring efficient and thorough equipment cleanout,” said Justin Montgomery, sales manager, U.S. and Canada, Clextral. “Both are important, as each minute of downtime impacts productivity while incomplete cleanout can result in cross-contamination and product waste.”

To accomplish these things, it’s important to have a good relationship with customers, a production line designed for easy changeovers, and a staff well-trained in the art of fast sanitation, changeovers and preventive maintenance.