The Science & Innovation Center was built in 2008.

SINKING SPRING, PA.  — On Monday, the smell of fresh cookies might waft through the building. Tuesday to Thursday could encompass new processes for pretzel-shaped snacks. And on Friday, there’s the possibility of a cracker takeover. With a revolving door of customers trying a different process or product, each day brings something new to the Science & Innovation Center at Reading Bakery Systems (RBS).

The center is used by all types of baking and snack companies including start-ups, medium-sized bakeries and large corporations. While many innovation centers in the industry are created for machinery demonstrations, RBS’ center is primarily for product research and development, so the company sees a lot of trends before they hit the market. Customers can rent the space for half-day, full-day or weekly increments to: demonstrate new processes; examine ingredient changes; test new equipment and techniques; research innovations in mixing, forming, baking and drying; or produce samples for consumer testing.

“We sell snack food systems, but more importantly, we partner with our customers beginning with their new product idea all the way through commissioning,” said Dulcinea Freymoyer, vice-president of marketing, RBS. “Our goal is to help them develop their ideas, solve problems and succeed.”

Built in 2008 and located in Sinking Spring, Pa., the current 30,000-square-foot center — the first RBS technical center opened in 1996 — offers three full processing lines that can produce sheeted crackers and crisps, wirecut and rotary moulded cookies, extruded pretzels and snacks, and expanded snacks. The center also houses four continuous mixers designed for low-moisture batters, high-developed doughs, wheat-based products and other processing properties. All of its available test equipment and pilot systems are automated with Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), a computer control system and touch screens.

The innvation center allows snack manufacturers to walk away with product samples.

When it comes to baking, the innovation center’s flexible snack line includes the 600-mm-wide and 9.75-m-long Thomas L. Green PRISM Oven, which bakes products from pretzels to biscuits to pet treats. On its cookie line, the PRISM Emithermic Zone oven bakes rotary moulded and wirecut cookies. Customers also have access to the Reading Thermal SCORPION Data Logging Measurement System, a device that measures and records the air flow, humidity, heat flux and temperature of the processing oven.

Cameron Johnston, director, RBS Science & Innovation Center, said the outputs of the lines vary. Finished products range from 75 lbs per hour up to 200 lbs per hour. Pretzels are lower in volume, crackers are in the medium range, and some of the cookies can have a higher output. The finished products are then bulk-packaged or filled and sealed in bags to be shipped to the business’s facility.

To limit risk for customers, RBS experts assist with the developmental process to achieve the desired product before the equipment purchase. RBS technicians have years of experience in the industry and understand the process of mixing, dough forming, baking and drying, as well as ingredient formulating. They can help determine whether certain moisture levels need to be developed in the dough or chemical agents need to be added to starches.

RBS technicians can assist snack makers on site and answer product development questions.

Offsite trials are another option for customers. For example, a large company might want to move from a batch mix dough operation to a continuous mixed dough operation, Mr. Johnston said, but prefer to test the equipment at its own facility. RBS can send a technician to the location and ship the needed equipment, which would be used to validate the difference of the doughs and ensure that the consistency will be maintained.

Since the innovation center’s purpose is to demonstrate how its equipment makes products on a large scale, Mr. Johnston said RBS has done its job if the customer walks away with great samples.

“We focus on quality, not quantity,” he explained. “This means our lines are pilot-sized, so we’re not focused on production rate capacity samples. We’re focused on providing the right samples for their market studies.”

For more information on the RBS Science & Innovation Center, visit www.readingbakery.com