A preventive maintenance program with a strict schedule is the best way to avoid unwanted downtime on a divider.

John Giacoio, vice president of sales, Rheon, said operators should be educated on what to look and listen for to alert them to a problem.

“We know when employees take ownership of the process, they are more likely to identify risks that can impact downtime,” Mr. Giacoio said. “Educating operators during the installation on things to look for is always an important part of the process.”

A maintenance schedule can also impact the divider’s performance. Jay Fernandez, master baker at the Middleby Bakery Innovation Center, recommended using a divider with a preventive maintenance schedule in its HMI.

Additionally, bakers should prepare a maintenance schedule in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Cleaning, lubrication and replacement of parts are key to proper functioning and long-living machines.

“Regular inspections by a factory authorized engineer or a local-trained mechanic are a must to gauge the general condition of the machine,” said Ken Johnson, president, Gemini Bakery Equipment/KB Systems.

Gemini/Werner & Pfleiderer offers training, apps, internet links and other resources to help bakers establish effective maintenance programs.

Regular inspections and maintenance are always recommended, but an easy way to observe divider performance is to monitor the dough weight data, then act if weights begin to vary outside the norm.

“People have always understood that scaling greatly effects the bottom line. Volumetric machines that require major overhauls are now done on schedules, sometimes with ‘loaner’ machines installed while this is occurring,” explained John McIsaac, vice president of strategic business development, Reiser.

Checkweighing is a great way to objectively tell if the portioning elements of the divider are wearing.

“They also can correct weight for the changes in dough density that occur daily and even within the course of a batch,” he added.

With today’s advanced divider technology, bakers can rely more on built-in programs to schedule regular maintenance and reports based on data collected during production.

“Handtmann dividers monitor not only the production hours but also the operating pressures, drive loads and internal component temperatures to allow us to better assess the equipment condition and take a more effective approach in terms of equipment service recommendations and wear parts replacement to always have the equipment running at optimal conditions,” said Cesar Zelaya, bakery technology manager, Handtmann.

The Handtmann Communication Unit provides real-time information of key indicators of productivity. Its Weight Regulation Module records the dough weights using the Handtmann checkweigher WS 910. Based on the data and fluctuations in the density of the product, it can make weight corrections to minimize the product shortage or waste due to over- or under-scaling.

Bakers also now have new ways to access best-practice guidelines for maintenance. Some companies offer on-site or virtual training, while others combine those services with easy-to-access online tools. AMFMethod documentation and training is an interactive website that provides operators with on-demand animations, videos, skills assessments, technical documents and other training tools.

“The best way that a preventative maintenance schedule or system can increase throughput or capacity and reduce downtime is to use it proactively,” said Bruce Campbell, vice president of dough technologies, AMF Bakery Systems. “By tracking the reasons for the downtime and reduced productivity, you can use the data proactively to prevent the same issue from occurring twice.”

These technology advances also reduce the amount of time needed to address issues when they crop up. A plant’s maintenance staff, after all, only has a short period of time to make a fix before the line needs to be back up and running.

“Maintenance needs to be as simple and quick as possible. We are upping our game in multiple ways,” Mr. McIsaac said.

One way to do this is to make sure instructions are simple, clear and easy to access. Maintenance staff also needs a well-stocked inventory of spare parts that is also up to date. 

Even if a bakery doesn’t have a dedicated maintenance department, vendors offer a wide variety of versions of remote assistance. From online chats, to video calls to augmented reality, equipment manufacturers are making sure bakeries can run 24/7.

Even with all the technological advances that simplify life, everything seems to speed up rather than slow down. That’s a good thing when it comes to dividers. Capacities continue to increase, and that’s good for a baker’s bottom line, if the dividers can keep up.

“The typical rates for yeast-raised doughs vary from location to location; however, the rates have only increased over the years and never decreased,” Mr. Campbell said. “The best way to manage the need for increased capacity is to properly size the equipment for the capacity needed, as well as add some reserve capacity for the future.”

Right-sizing equipment means not always going for the largest hopper or pump. Decisions should be based in terms of tons per hour and final quality of the dough.

“Many of our customers ask why our hoppers can’t be made larger,” Mr. Giacoio explained. “I always tell them the larger the hopper, the more damage is done to the dough like degassing the dough. This is why we offer dough feed systems to dose the dough into the hopper as it is needed.”

A baker needs to find the right divider for their specific dough and process. Each formulation requires different parameters for speed and weight range, and these need to be taken into account.

“Follow the recommended operation and service protocols,” Mr. Zelaya said. “In other words, don’t push the equipment beyond its defined limits in terms of speed and product range they are designed to handle. Also, perform on-time maintenance procedures and wear parts replacements suggested by the OEMs.”

To keep up with higher production requirements, Handtmann’s VF-800 dividers are scalable and ready to increase production throughput in the future without needing to replace them or perform any hardware upgrades.

“Let’s say a customer purchases a divider to produce 6,000 pizza dough balls per hour, through a software upgrade; that customer on the same divider can ramp up the capacity to 9,000 dough balls per hour,” Mr. Zelaya said.

With increased capacity comes increased sanitation and maintenance. Without these proper programs, machines run to failure quickly.

Daily cleaning of the divider is a chief concern. Bakers should be able to remove key components to clean and remove all dough residue. Operators should also oil components before putting them back into service.

“Longer term proper preventive maintenance and regular inspections can greatly increase the life span of the dividers,” explained Keith Collins, senior field engineer, Gemini. “Replacing wear parts within the manufacturer’s recommended timeframes and periodic inspections to find and correct small issues before they become very big issues are key. The real cost of not following the cleaning and maintenance instructions is inaccurate weights, unexpected breakdowns and lost sales.”

To achieve final product quality, dough dividers must maintain elite levels of accuracy. And to do that, they need to be cleaned and maintained properly. Instead of focusing on addressing larger issues, successful bakers focus on the small things, more often.

As Mr. McIsaac pointed out: “A small amount of maintenance can save a lot of downtime.”    

This article is an excerpt from the December 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on dividing, click here.