It’s where dough becomes a finished product. Baking takes energy and time for that process to be done well, but bakers are always looking for ways to maximize their efficiency in this place.

“The first criteria in terms of energy efficiency for an oven is its capacity to bake the desired product as fast as possible while attaining the required quality characteristics,” said Marie Laisne, oven product manager, Mecatherm.

Efficient burners, oven controls and oven design can set up a bakery for the most ideal heat transfer, but there are still some best practices operators may follow to ensure they get the most out of the oven.

Sizing the oven to production needs and choosing the right heat is No. 1.

“Oversized ovens take up excess floor space and are not energy efficient in BTU per pound if production does not keep them full,” said Dennis Kauffman, director of thermal systems, AMF Bakery Systems. “Long runs of similar products and bake times reduce inefficient changeover, lost time or partial loads.”

Once the oven is up to temperature, the least amount of downtime between products, the better.

“When the product flow becomes erratic and there are a lot of breaks, then the oven is going to adjust more,” said Damian Morabito, president, Topos Mondial. “The more the oven adjusts, the less efficient it will be from a fuel usage standpoint. If you feed it steadily and consistently, it will be its most efficient.”

Strategically arranging the production schedule can also prevent a bakery from inadvertently wasting energy.

“Start with the product with the lowest bake temperature and ramp up so that the bakery doesn’t throw away heat,” said Brent Grantham, national accounts manager, Baker Thermal Solutions.

Other best practices include using steam to encourage energy transfer, keeping pans very clean and inspecting the ovens on a regular schedule to make sure everything is operating correctly.

Scott McCally, president, Auto-Bake, also cautioned against making too many manual adjustments to the ovens. With today’s level of automation and control, manual adjustments should not be necessary and will most likely hamper the oven’s effectiveness. On most commercial ovens, recipe controls now minimize the operator’s influence.

“We’ve automated almost everything now,” said Shawn Moye, vice-president of sales, Reading Bakery Systems. “We’ve taken most direct interaction out of the operator’s hands, so everything is under a recipe management system. We’ve basically taken all the direct interface out of the oven and placed it in the control panel and offer smaller operational adjustments.”

Recipe control ensures that every product is baked with the correct parameters every time.

“The recipe screen allows the operator to modify the different oven parameters such as exhaust fan speed, circulation air speed, air temperature and more,” said Nathan Stockton, sales manager, Babbco.

Tagliavini modular deck ovens are equipped with a standard control panel for 10 baking programs that control temperature, steam time and quantity, baking time and damper exhaust.

All of WP Bakery Group’s ovens are equipped with a control panel that holds 200 recipes and 50 baking steps. The WP Thermador tunnel ovens enable operators to adjust top and bottom heat in each control zone.

“With the advent operator interface screens, you can set recipes and profiles over time as you learn what works best for a given product, so having everything programmed in recipe format really helps for repeatability and consistency and efficiency,” Mr. Morabito said.

AMF’s Vesta, BakeTech and Den Boer ovens all have fully automated recipe management that provides repeatability or SCADA cloud-based production control.

“Once the set points are programmed, the oven will produce exactly the same baking characteristics upon selection of the product,” Mr. Kauffman said.

Auto-Bake improved its interface so that operators can adjust parameters more quickly when necessary. New sensory and monitoring technology also has given bakers more information to improve oven performance. Mr. McCally suggested that bakers continuously monitor fuel consumption, product throughput, water vapor, volumetric exhaust airflow, combustion air temperature and the pressure differential between the oven and its environment to optimize oven performance.

With these strategies and technologies in place, bakers can rest knowing their ovens are operating optimally.

This article is an excerpt from the April 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on ovens, click here.