When bakers talk about their equipment wants and needs, three key concepts pepper every conversation: versatility, flexibility and cleanability. These three demands permeate every aspect of a commercial bakery, starting with the basic functions of the makeup department: dividing, rounding and moulding.

But these days, dividers are anything but basic as manufacturers engineer hygienic makeup equipment capable of handling dough for bagels, rolls, tortillas, pizza crust, artisan breads and gluten-free baked goods, often all on one machine.

“Clients want equipment to do more and more, but they also need the changeover from one item to another to be easier and quicker,” said Mark Rosenberg, CEO, Gemini Bakery Equipment, Philadelphia.

Richard Breeswine, general manager, Koenig Bakery Systems, Ashland, VA, agreed, adding, “As far as divider/ rounders are concerned, the need for extremely versatile equipment in terms of dough consistency, weight range and weight accuracy are the clear drivers of every development in this field.”

Precision in variety

The versatility of today’s dividers is evident in the scaling ranges they accomplish, the variety of dough they handle and the precise portioning they offer. When it comes to dividers, bakers have numerous options to choose from.

Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group’s ADR, VDR and NDR divider/rounders deliver a scaling range of 1 oz to 5 lb, depending on the baker’s needs. “Our VDR can scale from 1.25 to 19 oz, with the NDR going from 1 to 10 oz at higher speeds,” said Merle Cooper, Adamatic sales manager for the Auburn, WA-based company. “Our Glimek line of bread dividers handles heavier weights, up to 5 lb.”

As expected, enhancements to dividing technology must extend to rounders and moulders since they often work side-by-side in a bakery. Rheon USA, Irvine, CA, recently added the Punch Rounder to its existing line of stress-free artisan systems for boule production. “The Punch Rounder produces rounds from a range of dough types, including stiff pizza dough and soft, high-water formulations,” said Jon Thompson, national sales manager. “It connects directly to our V4 stress-free dividers to create a continuous production system without overhead proofers.”

The push to differentiate products as well as increase their nutritional value also has pushed technological advancements. “These two factors mean an increase in new product development and the addition of more expensive inclusions into existing products,” observed Cesar Zelaya, bakery applications specialist, Handtmann, Lake Forest, IL. “Higher value doughs and batters increase the ­value of precise portioning, and gentle handling of inclusions becomes more important because it enables the premium quality to become visible to consumers.”

Increasing demand for artisan breads and rolls made from high-absorption doughs drives advancements in dividing technology. “Our Artisan series of dividers offers string lines specifically designed for highly hydrated and well-­fermented dough,” Mr. Breeswine said. “Additionally, all machines from the Artisan series can be equipped with rounders, which enable them to produce all kinds of round products, such as Italian-style ciabatta rolls.”

Some divider/rounder systems focus solely on highly hydrated, fat-free dough. Mecatherm S.A., Barembach, France, developed its Mecaflow process specifically for dividing baguettes, Parisian breads, bâtards, sandwich breads and similar high-absorption baked goods. “With the Mecaflow process, a large, thick strip of dough is formed ­using a calibrated system,” said Cyril Munsch, the company’s sales director. “There is no constraining mechanical action on the dough when it is cut into pieces and fed to the Mecaflow moulder.”

Mr. Munsch also noted that the Mecaflow cannot process low-­hydrated, stiff dough because it does not have a roller-based extraction or extruding mechanism, the absence of which further enhances the gentle dough handling required by these types of doughs. The Mecaflow in-line processes unmoulded products such as ciabatta and cut products, moulded products such as baguettes and dinner rolls, and Brazilian Pão Frances rolls.

One of the greatest challenges both bakers and dough makeup equipment manufacturers currently face is the trend toward gluten-free baked goods. Gluten-free dough is extremely loose, often being described as having a toothpaste- or soup-like consistency, and it presents both formulating and production dilemmas. “This growing trend requires dividers to handle sticky, wet products not seen before,” noted John McIsaac, vice-president of strategic business development, Reiser, Canton, MA. “We developed double-screws specifically for the product. This, combined with our engineered attachments, allow us to accurately divide gluten-free products and produce superior quality. We can create a uniform crumb structure without the large irregular holes often seen in this type of product.”

According to Mr. Zelaya, bakers need equipment that can handle the lack of elasticity, extensibility and gas retention typical of gluten-free doughs with the same efficiency and consistency as traditional doughs. The company’s vacuum system can customize almost every pumping parameter for each gluten-free dough, from very dense to batter-like recipes.

“In fact, some gluten-free doughs that behave more like a batter flow through our pump so easily that we have been able to skip the rounding/moulding process because the divider created the required dough piece shape and deposited it directly into the trays or pans for proofing and baking,”

Mr. Zelaya said.

Fully charged flexibility

Consumer demand for greater variety and higher quality puts pressure on bakers to find economical and efficient ways to expand their product offerings and improve quality while keeping yields high and labor costs low.

AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, VA, developed its new line of Flex dividers around these factors. The line features four different dividers with similar components but slight changes in the designs to handle specific products. “The DoFlex is for high-speed bun and tortilla production,” explained Bruce Campbell, vice-president. “The RollFlex is for variety bun lines, and the BreadFlex focuses on bread loaves. We even have a MuffinFlex divider/rounder dedicated to English Muffin production.” According to Mr. Campbell, overall efficiency in the make-up area is further improved with the addition of dough developing, checkweighing and push-button recipe management for easy changeovers.

“The Flex dividers scale very accurately without the need for operator adjustments,” Mr. Campbell added. “Besides the direct dough dollar savings from the high accuracy, there are a lot of soft cost savings, and it makes the entire line, all the way through packaging, more efficient.”

“Making sure the customer gets the best divider and best divider setup for his product is a key,” Mr. McIsaac agreed. “No divider is going to be successful unless it can handle the products to the producer’s expectations.”

With that philosophy in mind, Reiser makes dividers for both large and small bakery operations. The company’s simply designed attachments for cookie production and pizza, baguette and bread dividing allows smaller bakeries to expand their product offerings using just one machine.

Gemini Bakery Equipment recently installed a combination divider/rounder system for a client who wanted to produce both 1 oz round rolls and 14 oz round boules. “The divider is equipped with interchangeable measuring units and has a hydraulic dividing control that allows the operator to adjust the compression level depending on the dough type,” Mr. Rosenberg explained.

According to Cindy Chananie, president, Cinch Bakery Equipment, Clifton, NJ, experience with American flour, which affects the dough, is also essential when helping bakers decide which type of divider is best for their operation. “Our RS High Speed Divider, created by Rolf Seilnacht, president of Seilnacht Bakery Service-Bakery Technology, has a new drive system that can be precisely adjusted according to the dough being processed,” she said.

The RS High Speed Divider produces smooth ­tortilla dough, stiff bagel dough, soft pizza dough, and soft wheat dough for mini-baguettes, hamburgers or hot dog buns. It was engineered to reflect two machines: one divider and choices for rounding. “Some bagel bakeries prefer to divide the dough and send the slab directly to a bagel former without any rounding,” Ms. Chananie explained. “The RS High Speed Divider can do this. If the bakery produces rolls, it can divide the dough and then choose to round with an inner/outer moulding drum or with oscillating cups and a conveyor belt/board to simulate hand moulding.”

Clean, easy and efficient

The rapidly changing regulatory landscape has prompted equipment manufacturers across the board to engineer equipment that meets the strict hygienic design rules set forth by the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Global Food Safety Initiative. To help equipment manufacturers and bakers navigate the constantly changing sanitation criteria, baking industry members banded together and created the ANSI Z50.2 standard (formerly the BISSC standard), which focuses specifically on the type of food manufacturing equipment used in the baking industry.

In today’s regulatory climate, when a manufacturer decides to redesign its equipment, a major focus is how to improve in the area of sanitation. This was the case with Benier Nederland BV, a member of the Kaak Group, The Netherlands. “When we redesigned our Dough Master divider, we focused on improving accessibility for cleaning,” said Roger Romsom, marketing and sales director. The redesigned Dough Master features a new trolley system that sits alongside the divider. It holds the ram-and-knife when it is removed for cleaning and keeps it from getting lost or damaged during the sanitation process.

The company also made some hygiene-related ­changes to its cone rounder and bread moulder. “With the rounder, we wanted to optimize the anti-stick properties of the Teflon coating, increase its shelf life and give it more resistance during cleaning,” Mr. Romsom added. “With this moulder, bakers can open the pressure board for good access and quick removal of the belts, which is important for improving cleanability.”

Tool-free design, such as that used by AMF on its line of Flex dividers, makes sanitation procedures easier and quicker. “We virtually eliminated the need for tools,” Mr. Campbell said. “Our BreadFlex can be cleaned in less than 15 minutes with no tools required.”

Simplicity and improved sanitation were also the ­focus of the company’s newly redesigned rounders and moulders. “With our moulders, the total number of parts and assembly time have been reduced by almost 50%,” Mr. Campbell noted.

Mecatherm recently upgraded its H1, H2 and H3 dividers in the interest of optimizing their industrial use. “The dividers now feature two separate areas,” Mr. Munsch explained. “There is one area for the dough and one area for the mechanical parts. The result is total ­access to the mechanical parts and easy cleaning.” Open guarding, transparent windows and quick dismantling of the belt and hopper make the dividers easy to clean and reduce both maintenance costs and downtime. The frame design changed from a welded frame to a more rigid bolted frame with better accessibility for maintenance and cleaning.

Just as consumers push their expectations to bakers, bakers push their needs to equipment manufacturers. “Equipment design and advances in the technology are always customer-driven,” Ms. Cooper said. “Customers push us to make improvements and changes.” If the latest developments in technology are any indication, suppliers can expect continued demand for versatile, flexible and easily cleanable makeup equipment.