Slicing and packaging operations can be notorious for backing up a plant’s production, and often the packaging line is the bakery’s biggest potential bottleneck. Slicers, baggers and closers need to run as quickly and continuously as the rest of the operation to keep things moving.

“Our baggers are able to run as fast as the product can be fed to them,” said Dennis Gunnell, vice-president, sales and marketing, Formost Fuji Corp., Woodinville, WA. “The reason we can do that is straightforward design principles of trying to keep the product in constant motion. Our baggers don’t have a lot of reciprocating motion, and the reciprocating motion they do have is short.”

Communication between operator and equipment and among equipment itself is also vital to keep a packaging line moving.

Hal Miller, vice-president, sales, Kwik Lok Corp. Yakima, WA, said the company’s closure applicator machines can detect jams in the system such as a fallen slice of bread. The machine will then automatically try to kick the slice out itself.

In case the problem can’t resolve itself and a line has to be shut down, most equipment manufacturers recommend developing a backup plan to maintain throughput.

“Through program integration, if you realize you have a maintenance problem on a slicer or bagger, we’re able to speed up the rest of the lines to match the throughput needed in the system,” said Matt Stanford, vice-president, Bettendorf Stanford, Inc., Salem, IL. “We always recommend bakers run the equipment between 70 and 80% capacity across a certain number of lines. If one of those lines goes down, the other lines will run at 100% to meet throughput while you’re trying to fix the other equipment.”