It’s been just three years since the last IBIE, but original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have continued to engineer and advance systems that meet bakers’ needs for sanitary design, easy maintenance and flexibility as well as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the newly revised ANSI Z-50 standards.

To allow bakers to react more quickly to new product trends, much equipment engineered today provides a higher level of flexibility, which allows bakers to manufacture a greater assortment of baked foods on a single line.

In addition to added versatility, new equipment features make sanitation less time-consuming and allow bakers to extend product runtimes. Bakeries are 24/7 operations, and while they will generally shut down for a shift once a week or every 10 days, they can’t stop for an extended period of time.

Bakeries take control

Bakeries want greater command over their ingredient handling systems, mixers, makeup lines, ovens and packaging machines so that they can easily adapt these systems to the ever-changing product trends. Along these lines, pneumatic ingredient conveying systems feature more sophisticated and centralized management systems, noted Bill Kearns, vice-president, engineering, The Fred D. Pfening Co., Columbus, OH. These include integral maintenance alerts, trending data and extensive use of sensors to provide better performance and control.

Another recent initiative involves reviving an established technology, inline chilling. Shick, Kansas City, MO, recently partnered with Linde North America, Murray Hill, NJ, to offer a proprietary injector system that precisely controls the amount of cryogenic gas — usually carbon dioxide, CO2 — put into the conveyor tube to instantly chill dry ingredients as they flow to mixers.

Far from being limited to flour, these systems can be set up to cool virtually any ingredient including sugar, spices and dry mixes, according to Scott Fischer, director of sales and marketing, Shick.

Bakeries also are using statistics to control or monitor mixing. AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, VA, offers Dough Guardian, a statistical process control (SPC) that provides data analysis, quality control and troubleshooting of the mixing process, according to Bruce Campbell, the company’s executive product manager, dough processing technology.

“All major and minor variables in the mixing process are tracked by Dough Guardian and kept in a batch file,” he said. “This batch file is presented graphically in easy-to-understand SPC charts.”

To expand the capabilities of continuous mixers in baking, AMF has been working with Robesonia, PA-based Reading Bakery Systems, both of which are members of the Markel Bakery Group, to adapt Reading’s Exact continuous mix systems for bread and buns, Mr. Campbell noted. “The advantages of continuous mix for bakeries that have large runs of similar doughs are primarily consistency and labor cost reduction, which are two of the main ingredients to a more profitable bakery,” he observed.

Makeup systems also need to be flexible. Rheon USA, Irvine, CA, considered bakeries’ futures when designing its V4 stress-free dough feeder, which uses rollers to gently form high-absorption dough into a continuous sheet. Although particularly suited to artisan bread dough, the V4 can produce a wide range of baked foods such as pizza shells and pan breads.

Running cleaner, longer

To help bakeries operate more efficiently, Rondo, Inc., designed its new Midos industrial dough band former in such a way that it does not require flour or release oil, according to Jerry Murphy, president of the Moonachie, NJ-based company. The band former’s open design meets the latest hygiene standards and can be washed down during sanitation.

Reducing sanitation and maintenance time has driven many of the advances that Shaffer-Bundy Baking Solutions has made to its mixing technology, noted Terry Bartsch, the Urbana, OH-based company’s vice-president, sales.

For example, the company improved bowl and shaft seals to reduce the amount of flour dust escaping from the bowl.

“We removed all the sealing components from the underside of the canopy, and they are now mounted to the top of the canopy,” he noted. “So we have a very clean underside.” While bakeries demand lines that run for weeks on end between shutdowns, they also don’t want sanitation to take long when necessary.

“‘Easy to clean’ and ‘easy to maintain’ mean the line is back up and making sellable product faster,” said Eric Riggle, vice-president of Rademaker USA, Inc., Hudson, OH.

Because manufacturers face challenges in food safety, Reading Bakery Systems, Robesonia, PA, also improved the sanitary designs of its cookie and cracker systems. “Our equipment is designed with the latest sanitary innovations available to the industry,” said Shawn Moye, Reading’s executive director of sales. “We have also simplified our equipment to use open-frame designs, ensuring that all areas of the equipment can be seen and thus sanitized easily.”

Additionally, Reading added a clamshell design to its continuous mixers, reducing sanitation times by as much as 70% compared with sanitizing mixers built as recently as five years ago. The clamshell also improves the ability to inspect the mixer after cleaning.

Create faster changeovers

Advanced oven process control from Baker Thermal Solutions, Clayton, NC, adds more checkpoints to regulate a given recipe. “This, in turn, gives broad flexibility to users running a variety of products in a single oven and affords faster changeover,” said Jerry Barnes, the company’s senior vice-president, engineering.

Auto-Bake, Hornsby, Australia, is represented by Dunbar Systems, Inc., Lemont, IL, in the US, and it offers Serpentine ovens that convey pans through multiple horizontal levels in an S-shaped path to save space in plants. The Serpentine design can be incorporated within the proofing and cooling modules, too, to conserve even more space and provide a highly automated system.

“To stay competitive, bakers are increasingly converting to highly automated continuous production systems that offer minimal changeover time and high yield; this retains the flexibility to manufacture a wide range of products,” said Amanda Hicks, Auto-Bake’s director and co-CEO.

Communicating with production lines is critical to obtain high efficiency and consistent product quality, noted Caleb Reyes, regional sales manager for corn products systems, Heat and Control, Inc., Hayward, CA. “We have developed a line monitoring platform called Information That Matters, which provides real-time data on equipment control points, key performance indicators and notification of faults via smart phone or computer,” he said.

“This gets the right information to the right people so equipment adjustments or repairs can made very quickly to maintain high overall equipment effectiveness.”

In packaging areas, robot integration continues to proliferate as bakeries look to reduce labor. Robotics also can increase processing rates and provide greater flexibility in the product styles being produced and shipping containers used, noted John Keane, AMF’s executive product manager, packaging and automation. Robots reduce repetitive-motion injuries and the maintenance time required compared with conventional packaging equipment, he added

Depending on the application, AMF installs gantry, articulating arm or SCARA robots. Recent installations have involved robots loading products such as bagged breads, rolls and English muffins; packaged cookies; standup pouches of croutons as well as unbagged crouton bread; and fruit pies into their shipping containers.

“All were loaded by the robot into plastic single-layer shipping containers as well as dual-layer cardboard corrugate cases with U-board insertion to protect the bottom layer,” Mr. Keane said, observing that the dual-layer cases represent a relatively new capability by AMF’s systems.

PLC programming for robotics control reduces the need for additional robot programmer training and support, he added. And AMF designs and programs end-of-arm tools (EOATs) in ways to that limit the number of EOAT changeover requirements. And being able to change tooling on robotic systems imparts flexibility that is not possible through traditional hard automation.

BluePrint Automation, Colonial Heights, VA, offers more sophisticated vision systems for product acquisition, quality inspection and other vision-related tasks on the front end of its robotic packaging systems, according to John French, the company’s director, projects and applications.

“One of the concerns bakeries and snack food manufacturers have is that robots will not be able to inspect their products like a person can when packing it; hence, quality control will go down,” he said. “In fact, the opposite may be true — robotic systems in some instances can do a much better job.”

At Baking Expo 2013, wholesale bakers are bound to see many new advances to equipment that have been made since the last Baking Expo. In fact, IBIE’s new Innovation Showcase exhibit will highlight many of these cutting edge breakthroughs.

While these developments occur for many reasons, assisting bakeries with sanitation and maintenance as well as allowing for greater product versatility are two of the main impetuses.