VERSAILLES, KY. — With a century of experience and relationships under its belt, More Than A Bakery took its time to consider every aspect of its cookie/cracker production, including traditional best practices as well as opportunities for new ones.
The company relied heavily on its connections through the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association, which merged last year with the American Bakers Association (for which the bakery’s president, Bill Quigg, serves on the board), as well as BEMA, for its equipment selection process.
On the advice of a fellow baker, More Than A Bakery selected the AIM ingredient batching system from Shick Esteve, the first one in a Richmond Baking facility.
“The AIM system is something we didn’t have in our other facilities, but it’s proven beneficial,” said Jeremy Bruner, director of engineering. “To have one place that controls all the recipes and integrating it with our bulk-delivery system is very helpful.”
Outside, the Shick Esteve system houses straight grade and graham flour in two silos, along with a sugar tank and two bulk oil tanks that are equipped with a nitrogen blanket for preservation.
The system brings the bulk ingredients into caissons and then through a pneumatic blower system up to the scale hoppers. As the AIM system pneumatically conveys major ingredients to the scale hopper at the mixing stand, minors are hand-scaled below the stand and elevated via a forklift to be manually added to the Shaffer, A Bundy Baking Solution, 4,000-lb horizontal single sigma mixer. In a 20- to 30-minute process, each completed batch is dumped onto a transfer conveyor, where it begins a journey through the Franz Haas cookie and cracker makeup line.
After being sliced in a guillotine, the dough travels through the chunker, and the pieces then go through a Mettler Toledo metal detector and upward where it either turns toward the full sheeting line or continues to the rotary moulder, as it did for graham cracker makeup during Baking & Snack’s visit. If the dough pieces bypass the sheeting line, they fall into the rotary’s hopper, which is equipped with five “eyes,” or level sensors, to ensure the pieces are evenly distributed before breaking them into crumbles for the rotary die.
When designing the line, flexibility was top of mind, not only for the variety of cookies and crackers the bakery currently makes but also to accommodate the potential for new opportunities in the future. This was the intent behind incorporating sheeted and rotary cut technology into one line, which was ultimately an investment in the bakery’s future.
“For our contract manufacturing, we needed the ability to quickly switch back and forth,” Mr. Quigg said. “It was obviously an additional expense, but we needed to have that flexibility at the drop of a hat.”
To address challenges around changeovers from one process to another or changing out the die, the rotary piece can be rolled out of place via crane on a track that spans the width of the room.
“We can move it out for cleaning every day, and when we need to use the sheeting line, we simply roll in a transfer conveyor to go in its place,” Mr. Quigg added.
When cookies and crackers leave the makeup line, they head into a Franz Haas hybrid oven that uses a combination of direct-gas fire and convection to easily bake a wide variety of cookies and crackers — or any number of baked products — with a single-digit bake time.