Sometimes it’s better to ease up on the pedal and stay within speed limits. More often than not, everything will get to its destination on time and, in the case of a production line, often with less waste.
Maybe that’s because not everything in a sweet goods bakery rarely travels in a straight line, despite best efforts to design it that way. Keeping traffic moving at a steady, orderly and even a brisk pace through the occasional ups, downs and tight turns avoids unexpected breakdowns, unnecessary accidents and nasty pileups. By slowing down a bit, everything runs a lot better in the end, especially when the road is designed to carry the extra load during peak times.
“When you run slower, the weights will be more accurate,” said Hans Besems, executive product manager, AMF Bakery Systems. “In order to run slow but still have a high output, we make the lines wider. This allows us to produce more products across the width of the machine but at a slower speed. Also, longer runs are more efficient because the start and the end of the production run is never at the correct efficiency, which remains the same whether it’s a long or short run.”
Yes, line speed doesn’t always determine the rate of production. Rather, Scott McCally, president of Auto-Bake, a Middleby Bakery company, noted that a combination of precision timing and synchronization is also integral to cranking out a high-volume of snack cakes, muffins and other sweet goods.
“Our entire system has a working width up to 63 inches, which enables us to run relatively slow at less than 30 feet a minute, yet yield a high production throughput of up to 15,000 lbs an hour,” he pointed out.
John Giacoio, vice president of sales, Rheon USA, suggested an operation’s maximum efficiency typically depends on the size or specific type of product. Sometimes reaching that top run rate involves making adjustments up and down the line.
“If not, you’re asking your customers to run a machine outside the optimal capacity, and this helps nobody,” Mr, Giacoio said. “Sure, the machine can produce at a faster speed, but this should not be the stated machine capacity if you want it to function properly. The makeup section of a pastry line is usually what will set the speed of a line, especially if you’re making minis. By adjusting the length of the makeup section, you can match it to the desired sheeting capacity.”
On a new line, sweet goods manufacturers will run at a lower speed, then ramp up after signing off on quality assurance and operational key performance indicators.
“The efficiency of the line does not improve by slowing down the speed,” observed Coen Nikkels, manager of marketing and business development for Rondo Industrial Solutions. “However, sometimes the logistics around the line have a negative effect on the overall efficiency. For example, dough, fat, fillings, toppings and seeds must be available in the correct quantity and on time. Should this be disrupted, slowing down is often the first action operators take.”
Injecting snack cakes, for instance, requires adjustments based on the fillings, especially with jellies or jams with higher viscosities.
“They require higher pressure to inject because due to the thicker viscosities,” said Bob Peck, vice president of engineering, E.T. Oakes. “So we had to design the internal orifices, the paths to the needles and the needles themselves so we don’t have a high pressure condition in the manifold creating excessive deposit velocity.”
Likewise, bottlenecks and other traffic stoppers crimp efficiency, especially in product handling or when packaging multiple products or for myriad customers.
“Even producing the same product for two different sales channels such as retail and foodservice can create very unfavorable dynamics that inhibit maximum throughput efficiency,” Mr. McCally said. “In a world where SKU quantities continue to increase, the best compromise between dedicated versus highly flexible lines is simple: always buy equipment with flexibility in mind but operate as a volume producer.”
He added that Auto-Bake line produces breads, cakes, pastries and cookies in a way that maximizes throughput efficiency.
“They produce long runs of each category as appropriate, freeze and inventory product instead of attempting to produce everything everyday based on fluctuating sales volume and mix,” Mr. McCally explained.
Adjusting a sweet goods line should be done with minor incremental changes, especially if these tweaks affect upstream and downstream equipment.
“Here are some examples of issues you can have,” observed Randy Kelly, application specialists, Fritsch, a Multivac company. “If you speed up the line too fast, you can overshoot the cycle time at the mixer and ingredient handling system, which in turn can create unnecessary stops and gaps on the sheeting and makeup line.”
Abruptly slowing down the line, he added, can create a backup at the mixer that creates unusable dough or inconsistent weights in sheeting and makeup. Moreover, operating too slowly or too quickly can also cause unnecessary wear and tear by overworking gearboxes and motors.
Nick Magistrelli, vice president of sales, Rademaker USA, identified four ways to maximize efficiency to reduce waste. With ingredients, use them according to the specifications and remove the variables that will lead to waste and lower efficiency. When it comes to process parameters, he noted, ensure consistency and maintain temperature control for efficient output and less waste. That’s especially crucial during lamination, such as for croissants and Danish, where maintaining a cool temperature prevents the dough from prematurely rising.
“Work with highly skilled people, invest in training to get your people at the right level of what they need to know and make sure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities,” he added.
Additionally, make sure to have proper equipment. Laminated sweet goods, for example, need a robust fat pump in the beginning of the line to handle a variety of butters and shortening to guarantee efficiency.
“When the final dough sheet is prepared, the makeup table needs to have proper tooling to produce high-quality goods in a repeatable manner while having the flexibility to keep the changeover time to a minimum,” Mr. Magistrelli said.
Such controls during dough formation remain vital to heightening yield and lowering reject rates.
“Being able to adjust your dough sheet to provide the proper size for each product at the makeup section will keep your trim percentage low and your quality high,” Mr. Giacoio said. “As the size and shape of products change throughout your day, the size of the dough sheet needs to change to reduce trim. Limiting the time for changeovers allows you to optimize production.”
Mr. Nikkels suggested that easily exchangeable tools condense changeover time.
“The stability of the product in relation to critical transfers to the next process influences the number of damaged products,” he said. “Rondo provides sheeting solutions for sweet goods like making donuts shaped out of a continuous dough band. The shape of the product is directly related to the amount of waste. Clever shapes reduce the waste and maximize efficiency.”
Mr. Besems noted that AMF uses the line’s greatest capacity to define the waste and scrap percentages and streamline the process as much as possible.
“Efficiency is not only determined by the makeup system,” he said. “For maximum efficiency, you would need to take a closer look at the complete process, including the proofer, oven, cooler and packaging systems.”