Bakeries have evolved over the years to offer more variety in their product portfolios as markets have become more competitive and consumer palates more sophisticated and diverse. This trend has changed what bakers need from their bread and bun lines.

“Back in the good old days, somebody would either design a line to make 1,000 Q.S.R. buns or 200 loaves of Wonder Bread — a pretty homogenous product set,” said Bruce Campbell, vice-president, global product technology, AMF Bakery Systems. “Now you have bakeries that still want to make tight-grain white bread, but they also want to make an open-grain, hearty bread on the same line.”

They also want the line to adapt and grow with whatever products the bakery adds to its portfolio. To accommodate this need for adaptability, equipment suppliers are designing versatility into the lines themselves. Whether that’s through controls, modular equipment or ovens with multiple capabilities, a turnkey production line can be built for flexibility.

“We have a lot of requests to upgrade lines because bakers are adding different products and wanting to get more efficiency, so we design flexibility in the beginning to accommodate those upgrades through the life of the equipment,” Mr. Campbell explained.

Controls and automation also play a huge role in improved flexibility. With consistent HMIs and software controlling an entire line, changes in parameters between products can be streamlined. To optimize efficiency, however, Mr. Campbell said the line will typically be designed around a few core products, leaving just a few tweaks to the process to accommodate anything new that comes along.

“There are some basic technologies you have to make decisions about pretty early on, such as, ‘What type of oven do I want for my core products, and what type of mixing solution do I want?’” he explained.

Once those decisions are made for the core products, bakeries can change the program’s parameters to accommodate products outside the core portfolio.

Going from white to whole wheat bread, for example, requires some parameter changes, which could be minor or major depending on the product. Going from white to whole wheat flour is one example. The process is largely the same, but mixing, proofing and baking profiles will most likely change. These parameters can all be saved in the controls, allowing the whole system to accommodate those changes with the push of a few buttons.

However, going from a pan bread to something more artisan like ciabatta requires a complete change in makeup equipment. By integrating an AMF Tromp sheeting line alongside a high-speed bread and bun makeup system, bakers can easily incorporate specialty items like swirl breads, baguettes, focaccia, flatbreads, fruited breads, hard rolls or ciabatta into their production schedule. Bakers can make one investment and add an entirely new line of products with the same proof, bake and cooling systems.

“We offer the best European artisan bread solutions out of our Netherlands-based AMF Tromp facility,” said Hans Herman Doude, vice-president of sales, AMF Tromp. “We then integrate this proven sheeting and depositing technology with the reliability of the standard American high-speed baking systems that the AMF brand was built on. We can extend production lines for added product variety by incorporating various make-up systems while utilizing the same mixing, proofing, baking, conveying, cooling and post-packaging technologies.”

Kaak Group’s latest advancement in pan bread processing came from a surprising place; its DrieM sheeting line was developed to produce artisan bread. However, the production line can gently handle a wide range of doughs, and bakers have been finding it useful in pan bread processing. “In Europe, there are several bakeries that use a DrieM sheeting line for the production of pan breads,” said Erik Rensen, area sales manager, Kaak Group. 

The DrieM sheeting line produces up to 22,000 lbs per hour with only one operator. It creates a consistent dough sheet by adjusting itself throughout a production run.

“The machine will constantly check the weight of the dough sheet and changes settings automatically when the weight changes,” Mr. Rensen explained. “Because of this, the moulded dough pieces are always similar.”

Sometimes, flexibility looks like a production line designed to handle a wide range of hydration. Sometimes it can be a sheeting line incorporated into a bread and bun line, but other times it can be having a steam feature in the oven for crusty breads. Sometimes it’s going with a continuous proof-and-bake system or combining a continuous proofer with a tunnel oven. The key is knowing the best fit for core products, then deciding how to adapt those for future products to get the most efficiency with flexibility.

When appropriate for a baker’s portfolio and production needs, a turnkey pan bread line can streamline the design and installation process. The consistency in controls and software can improve automation during transfers, reducing labor and improving efficiency. With the assistance of an experienced equipment supplier, bakers can design a line that is consistent, efficient and flexible.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on pan bread processing, click here.