Vision systems, quick-change tools and advances in robotics provide gentler pan handling that saves money in the long run. Source: ABI Ltd.

Shorter baking time
Inside the oven, Mr. Tingley said, American Pan’s ePans typically decrease a 9-minute bake time by about 40 seconds.

“When you put less mass through the oven, one of two things is going to happen — either you’re going to shorten the baking time and speed up the belt or conveyor, or you’re reducing the overall temperature in the oven,” he observed. “We estimate the pan pays for itself within its lifespan through energy savings alone.”

With lighter, more durable pans coupled with gentler handling, Mr. Tingley added that the company’s pan straightening business has declined dramatically — down to half the volume of a few years ago. Likewise, coatings have become more resilient.

“We used to get 300 releases on average for glaze, and now it’s 600 releases,” he added.

IBCO provides weight reduction designs such as perforations in the strapping and lighter gauge Alusteel with reinforcements. Mr. Cochrane said the company also relies on an external black substrate coating application to increase pan heat absorptivity and bake performance and to improve oven efficiencies.

Unlike a decade ago, almost every pan material used by American Pan now comes custom-produced from the mill. Although the metals’ chemistry and the process for making these pans remains proprietary, Mr. Tingley estimated today’s high-strength materials are 2.5 times stronger than a forming steel used in the past.

When designing pans, a panoply of other priorities plays a role.

“We want to understand the process and any related issues,” Mr. Tingley said. “We need to understand how the pans are being used and how they’re being washed. We need to understand the operational side. We love to hear any issues our customers have.”

He often inquires if pans are wearing too quickly or if there are consistent damage points or damage on the pans.

“If we can get into that loop, we can design pans that address any issues they had in the past,” Mr. Tingley noted.

Mr. Cochrane said IBCO relies on multiple tools — 3-D scanning, modeling and printing — to streamline the product development process into days that had taken weeks in the past.

Despite such progress, pan-stacking, unstacking and storage remain a critical concern in many operations.

“One of the challenges we constantly see at bakeries is effective pan handling on lines running multiple bread products,” Mr. Cochrane said. “Product changes can cause damage to the pan substrate as well as the coating. While bun tray designs are being successfully stacked through innovative designs, we see that tin bread pan sets are still subject to either bad pan management or ineffective stacking techniques.”

Pan design is also affected by how high they are stacked when stored — in some cases 80 pans or more atop of one another — and whether they are stacked face up or face down.

“We need to select the right materials and overall construction features to ensure the appropriate strength,” Mr. Tingley said. “We test pans in simulated bakery conditions to choose the best material, band and special strengthening features like structural ribs to provide ultimate durability.”

IBCO relies on deep-drawn Alusteel for pans with specific depth, design and radius specifications, but that’s not the only option.

“Ultimately, we try to include the bakery management in the design process to better understand the baking conditions,” Mr. Cochrane explained. “The pan material choice goes hand-in-hand with what the customer requires as an end-product and what our specific tooling design technologies can create.”