An encapsulation module for wire-cut machines provides the ability to enclose a chocolate, cream or paste filling inside a standard cookie.
Creating a checklist

Many manufacturers recommend bakers develop a detailed list of key questions — a sort of litmus test — to determine their processing needs before scouting out equipment. After the initial selection, the process should involve testing and retesting through simulated product runs with real doughs, often prior to installation.

Reading starts by determining the product mix to ensure the selected equipment is compatible with the process. “We like to get a product matrix from the customer,” Mr. Pallottini said. “This enables us to fully understand a customer’s requirements. The product matrix includes a list of products the customer wants to produce, the bake time and the required pounds per hour for each product.”

Reading runs trials at its innovation center. “This helps us verify the customer’s product on our process equipment and eliminate any variables early on in the project,” he added.

For many bakers, space is also a primary consideration. “The final step is to get a layout drawing of a customer’s facility,” Mr. Pallottini noted. “This enables us to fit the equipment in place. These three steps (product matrix, trial runs and floor layout) enable us to provide a proposal to the customer that ensures we are confident it will work and know it is priced correctly.”

In addition to space, the facility’s work environment — specifically, its temperature extremes — can affect the effectiveness of toppers and other pieces of equipment, according to Mr. Robinson. “Most plants are climate-controlled, but surprisingly, there are some places that are not. While heat can be an issue, it’s not that much of a problem nowadays with air-conditioning being so ubiquitous. But we need to ask about it. It’s a big factor.”

Mr. Zelaya suggested that cookie manufacturers should look beyond their current production needs and probe any system under consideration for its ability to incorporate new products or increase capacity in the future. To minimize downtime, he added, establish a product changeover protocol and consider options such as clean-in-place systems.

To minimize waste, Mr. McIsaac recommended checking to make sure the system can portion dough pieces accurately from the most free-flowing to the stiffest viscosity. Conduct trial runs right from the start of the purchasing process all the way through to the final factory acceptance tests. “We will test with your ingredients in our customer center, or we will bring a machine to you to prove what we already know,” he said.

With co-extruded cookies, Mr. Giacoio said, a good beginning involves a fundamental understanding of what ingredients work best together. “Most of the time, operators need to pay attention to the consistency of the filling as compared with the dough,” he said. “The best case scenario is if the filling is a little softer than the dough. Of course, if you’re making a filled product, you need to be sure you are using a bake-stable filling. We always have believed it is easier to see how these things all work together, so that is why we ask customers to test their products on the machines before they purchase.”

In the cookie category, a creative imagination provides the impetus for espying the next big idea, but it also requires a focus on the fundamentals to get the highest quality product to the market in the most efficient manner.