Software that make dividers and portioning equipment scalable and simple to operate can increase throughput efficiencies. SOURCE:Handtmann

It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Bakers and snack producers need to know the limits of their machines and use those extremes to determine when to increase or decrease production. Some products run at slower rates, take longer to bake or require some manual labor.

“Generally, the line is sized so there are no bottlenecks created by something that one machine can’t keep up with,” Mr. Zaleski said. “In an inline process, it has to be designed to go from a lower speed to a higher speed, and everything in between has to be able to do that.”

Eric Riggle, president, Rademaker USA, said many bottlenecks are usually related to panning or downstream pieces of equipment. So, when designing upstream equipment, engineers must consider the slower components.

After all, the line will only run as fast as the slowest piece of equipment in many cases.

“For instance, we might pan product at a significantly higher rate than our clients can proof or bake and oftentimes faster than existing technology in these two areas will allow,” Mr. Riggle said. “This creates a production bottleneck. Same issue if we are feeding a spiral proofer or freezer directly — our lines will often run faster belt speeds than the existing technology will allow.”

Burford Corp. has worked to eliminate a common source of bottlenecks on lines: splitters. Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford, said pans often enter a splitter and have to stop so it can traverse across it. Burford developed the HX high-speed splitter to do the job without stopping the pans.

“What we’ve done is design a machine to split on the fly,” Mr. Lindsey said. “That eliminates the bottleneck, and bakers get more throughput.”

Burford’s standard cross splitter has a maximum rate of 25 pans per minute while, depending on the pan size, the HX can run up to 40 per minute.

Manual labor is one of the biggest contributors to bottlenecks. An example would be on a bread line where operators score dough by hand. Some people might be able to score at a higher rate than others, so how can that process speed up to meet the output of the divider? The answer is often found in automation.

“The more you can make a process continuous from beginning to end, the less potential upsets you’ll get,” Mr. Zaleski said.

Future needs also must be considered when increasing throughput on a new production line. Cesar Zelaya, bakery sales and technology manager, Handtmann, said the new VF800 dough dividers and portioning equipment are scalable through software. This means that a piece of equipment originally installed to process 6,000 lbs per hour can be upgraded to crank out either 9,000 or 12,000 lbs per hour with no hardware change.

“You have to look at the whole picture,” Mr. Zelaya said. “We try to have these discussions early with the other suppliers. How are we going to get the bread we divide into the proofer or into the oven? There are things you can do early in the process to be more efficient in reducing the transfer points and saving space and time.”