Cleaning bakery equipment
Changeovers and sanitation are necessary downtime situations.

Staged for change

For a plant priding itself on flexibility, changeovers and sanitation are necessary downtime situations. There are several ways bakeries can make these run more smoothly and set operators up for success.

First things first, when designing a production line with flexibility in mind, straight lines tend to promote easy access for sanitation and changeovers.

“Having a straight-line layout makes it much easier for operators to access the parts they might need to change on the line,” Mr. Carr said. “If you have a long, straight line of equipment, it’s easier to change out a machine, and it’s easier for operators and supervisors to monitor the changeover compared to a production line that snakes its way through the plant.”

Bakers should think beyond an individual piece of equipment as the focus of the changeover and more about how the entire line operates. This will help lay out the rest of the plant in such a way that streamlines sanitation and changeover traffic.

“When planning a bakery, look forward and think about how you’re going to operate,” Mr. Carr advised. “Then when you lay out the support rooms, access ways and sanitation areas, they’re really going to help you be more flexible.”

Designing the production line and bakery layout for accessibility helps everyone — operators, sanitation technicians and mechanics — do their jobs more efficiently.

When thinking about individual changeovers, equipment designed for easy changeovers and sanitation is the first step to setting operators up for success.

“When purchasing equipment, it is important to get a complete understanding of what is required for product changes, step-by-step,” Mr. Montgomery said. “‘Quick changeover’ may mean different things to different people. Processors should be sure their expectations are in line with the equipment capabilities. The same goes for cleaning. They should be sure the equipment offers easy access for cleanout and sanitation.”

Modular equipment that can be easily moved in and out of place speeds up the process. Easily accessible change points that can be reconfigured without tools are essential. Hygienic design — stainless steel, no corners, sloping surfaces — makes sanitation and verification simpler.

While equipment design can make for smooth changeovers, a good strategy and well-trained team can take it to the next level. Mr. Myrick encouraged bakers to consider everything that needs to be done once the line shuts down to stage the changeover before it happens.

“I like to use the analogy of when a NASCAR driver pulls his car into pit row: How quickly can the crew turn it around and get it out?” he said. “Everything is prepped. Everything is staged. Everything is set to go.”

To avoid making changes to a piece of equipment, Mr. Keough suggested having redundant equipment on hand that is ready to go when it’s time for a changeover to happen. For example, on a muffin line featuring a filler: Instead of stopping the line to clean out the filler before running a different type of filling, operators could simply remove the used filler to a sanitation area and replace it with a clean, dry one.

“Rather than try to clean out the filler that’s applying the frosting, it’s easy enough to roll one on and roll one off,” he explained. This saves time on the changeover and sanitation and ensures that sanitation technicians have the time to thoroughly clean the equipment without the pressure of a changeover at stake.

To stay competitive in the dynamic market of baked foods and snacks, it’s imperative that bakers and snack producers offer customers the most flexible production they can, but not at the sacrifice of efficiency.

“With well-trained employees, readily available tools and an established changeover plan, you will realize faster changeovers and less downtime,” Mr. Montgomery said.