Rounders for artisan breads must accommodate high-absorption doughs, maintaining the gassy structure while creating the proper shape. 

Scaling up artisan bread production requires more than simply buying bigger and faster equipment. Bakers have to work around gentle handling of the dough that prevents production from moving too fast. Luckily, there are ways to avoid sacrificing the finished product quality.

Critical to the flavor and development of artisan dough is the long fermentation time after mixing. Dough often rests for hours before it’s divided and moulded. Accommodating long fermentation times requires strategic planning.

“With artisan, fermentation time is something you have to live with and make part of your process,” Mr. Moline said. “What we see oftentimes on artisan systems is a mixing carousel of spiral mixers so the process can still be continuous, but the dough is being mixed long before it’s being processed on a sheeting line.”

After mixing, dough needs some place to go. Previously, a baker probably had plenty of space to store hundreds of pounds of dough produced on a manual or semi-automated process. Now working with tonnes of dough at a time, space can become an unforeseen issue.

“Besides just putting a bigger dough sheeting line on the floor, all the ancillary equipment — retarders, ¬proofers, ovens and packaging and even the storage for the raw materials for the packaging materials — has to increase,” said Brian Inglis, key account manager, Rondo Industrial Solutions. “The logistics around making more product from A to Z is not just focused on the line itself.”

Rademaker works fermentation into a continuous artisan process. Non-fermented dough is chunked onto a multi-tier belt system that controls the time, temperature and humidity of the fermentation process.

“Through the continuous process, the chunks grow together into a continuous sheet of fermented dough that can then be introduced into our Crusto Bread Sheeting and Make Up line with no damage to the cell structure and an excellent and consistent fermentation throughout,” said Eric Riggle, president, Rademaker USA.

Artisan products’ gentle handling requirements mean increasing throughput can’t simply rely on speeding up the belt. To accommodate that, Minipan makes its production lines wider instead of faster. The company offers production lines up to 2 m wide and capable of producing more than 5 tonnes per hour without affecting accuracy or weight control, said Franco Fusari, sales managing director and co-owner of Minipan.

Fixed variables in production also puts confines on how artisan bakers can increase throughput.

“Your proof time and bake time are typically those fixed variables,” Mr. Moline said. “The only way to up your production rate is to make those lines larger, which oftentimes is impractical and why bakers end up going with additional lines.”

Adding lines allows bakers to maintain their product quality and long fermentation times while making more product. This, however, requires allocating space for future lines and being strategic about facility layouts.