When reducing water usage, the total costs add up to more than a drop in the bucket. However, calculating the exact amount of water or the extra time to clean a system over 5 or 10 years isn’t always clear when switching from one process to another. In addition to food safety, many companies need other reasons encouraging them to clean their bakeries differently.

“I’ve come to the realization that I have to drive the war on water from a financial standpoint and the need to increase capacity,” said Karl Thorson, sanitation manager at Minneapolis-based General Mill. “That’s what our businesses are looking for.”

It’s also why bakers struggle with paying extra for sanitary-designed equipment.

“We’re working on monetizing the cost of sanitary design,” Mr. Thorson said. “It’s not just the initial upfront investment. It’s realizing that it’s going to take 10 hours more every time I clean one piece of equipment versus another. Or if I’m using water to clean it, I may have to replace motors monthly instead of yearly.”

To conserve water, Douglas Machines Corp. employs a 2-tank system for pan, rack and tunnel washers. One tank recirculates detergent washer water while the other rinses and sanitizes. The rinse water then flows back into the wash tank for re-use, said Kevin Lemen, marketing manager. After the initial tank fills, the only water consumption in these automated systems is the small amount of rinse needed to remove soil and soap off the pan at the end of the cycle.

For instance, Douglas SD-20 pan washer pre-programs wash cycles between 4 and 8 minutes, followed by a standard 30-second sanitizing rinse and 60-second steam exhaust cycle. Using the shortest wash time, the system can process up to 10 batches an hour using 56 gal of water.

Related ReadingAdditionally, using PLCs or digital controls allows operators to switch to the shortest cycle time needed for various soil conditions.

“A lot of research has been done by Douglas engineering to minimize the amount of rinse water and still get a clean, sanitary result,” said  Kevin Lemen, marketing manager, Douglas Machines Corp.

AMF Bakery Systems relies on spraying rather than immersion to clean baskets.

“High-pressure pumps ensure the water sprayers can remove the debris from the surface efficiently,” noted Bobby Martin, executive product manager.

Afterward, heavy particles fall to the bottom of the reservoir and are removed periodically when the reservoir gets flushed out. Fine or light particles stay suspended in the water and pass through a filtering system meant to protect the water pump and extend the water usage. By re-using as much heated water as possible, Mr. Martin added, bakeries also save energy by eliminating the need to continuously heat water.

Keeping filters clean is the easiest way to reduce water consumption. Additionally, simply adjusting the water make-up level can make a huge difference.

“As the baskets go through the washer, they carry out some water, so fresh water makeup is necessary to refill what has been used,” Mr. Martin said.

Maintaining the reservoir underneath the overflow drain’s level ensures no water is wasted.

At the bottom of the bucket is the bottom line. Mr. Thorson pointed out dry-cleaning — whenever possible — shortens changeover times, drives uptime, increases capacity and enhances overall efficiency.