When it comes to automating scaling and batching, some ingredients can be high-maintenance in more ways than one. Many factors such as temperature fluctuations can cause challenges, especially with outdoor ingredient handling systems, according to Tom Leach, national sales director, baking and snack industry, Horizon Systems, Inc., Lawrence, KS.

“In a 24-hour period of time, the daytime highs to the nighttime lows can cause condensation on the interior of storage vessels,” he noted. “This condition is accelerated by storing dry ingredients in humid locations. Bakers can help eliminate condensation problems with dehumidification blanketing the top void space of the storage vessel with dry air.”

Additionally, excessive high temperatures or heat caused by mechanical friction or even the heat of compression from conveying blowers can compromise accuracy and other benefits provided by automatic ingredient handling systems, said Brian Ivkovich, senior vice-president, Zeppelin Systems USA, Odessa, FL. “Special flow aids, cooling or a combination of methods may need to be employed for successful system design,” he said. “In any case, suspect ingredients should be analyzed and tested before final designs are implemented. It is helpful to have ingredient material safety data sheets (MSDS) or the manufacturer’s product information sheets as an additional design resource.”

Some storage considerations are often required for temperature- or moisture-sensitive ingredients, Mr. Leach added. “Some minor ingredients tend to be adhesive and/or cohesive, requiring external flow aids such as aeration, vibration or agitation to promote proper flow from the storage hopper into the process,” he explained.

On the other hand, certain ingredients — such as raisins — can be difficult to automate, according to Bill Kearns, vice-president, engineering, The Fred D. Pfening Co., Columbus, OH. Pressure-sensitive chocolate chips, fragile puffed cereals and other delicate ingredients also can pose a challenge. “The solutions are to find a handling method that does not adversely affect the ingredient and to control the temperature and humidity to protect the ingredient’s characteristics,” he said. “Keeping chocolate chips frozen while handling them has been used to reduce damage, both in handling and subsequent mixing. Dehumidification of conveying air protects hygroscopic ingredients. Some very fragile ingredients are best handled in totes to minimize breakage.”

Moreover, fatty ingredients — which can include powdered cocoa, dried milk or even butter-based materials — can be more likely to stick or bridge in the bin and must be considered when designing the minor ingredients system, according to Dominick Kull, manager, bakery supply systems, Buhler, Inc., Minneapolis, MN.

Depending on their viscosity, other shortening-type ingredients can provide a quality control nightmare and may require a specific type of flow meter to ensure scaling precision, noted Philippe Jallet, ESTEVE SAS, Rians, France. Additionally, some powders — such as DATEM or ingredients that are apt to agglomerate — often require flat-based extractors as opposed to traditional vibrating extractors, which tend to cause particles to adhere and form lumps.

Likewise, water, moisture and humidity can be the bane of many bakery engineers’ existence. “If a product has high hygroscopic characteristics, scaling problems can often occur,” Mr. Kull said. “In areas with high humidity, the bins should be dehumidified. In addition, it can help to have an agitator above the conveying screw.”

That’s one way to avoid a sticky situation.

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Ingredient Handling: Micro Management
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