Space is always considered the final frontier when it comes to bolstering capacity in bakeries and snack operations.

That hurdle became especially apparent after the pandemic resulted in a surge in demand for retail breads and other packaged baked goods.

Enterprising bakers immediately ramped up production but soon discovered a slew of bottlenecks in their production lines.

As bakers shifted operations and added more mixing, dividing and other systems, the capacity-boosting equipment worked perfectly well until these bakers identified an unexpected choke point in the front of the process. That old reliable ingredient handling system just couldn’t keep up.

“This is a death sentence for your current batching process since being a major impediment to your company’s growth is not something you want to be accountable for,” said Don Goshert, vice president and general manager, Sterling Systems & Controls.

Ingredient handling systems in legacy bakeries face a host of challenges. Some are safety issues, said Tom Leach, national sales manager, pneumatic conveying systems, Camcorp, a division of Scheuch GmbH.

“Many of these bakeries need new explosion protection, whether it’s an explosion panel, chemical isolation, abort gates or some type of suppression equipment on the ingredient handling systems,” he explained. “Some of these bakeries are still operating with ingredient handling systems from 10, 15 or 20 years ago that aren’t in compliance now. A motivating factor for a baker who wants to upgrade an aging system would be concerns that they are not in compliance with OSHA regulations.”

There are many other signs of when a system needs upgrading.

“Increased ingredient demands, loss of efficiency as equipment nears end-of-life or changing process requirements are the most frequent reasons that we see upgrades needed,” noted Jason Stricker, director of sales and marketing, Shick Esteve.

Another reason often involves cost control.

“Operationally, it can become more expensive to keep an older system running than to purchase a new one,” said Zach Turner, sales engineer, AZO Inc. “If the system is very old and requires a great deal of maintenance attention, it can become a money pit eating away at valuable time, costs and resources on each and every shift. This alone eats away at profits, not to mention the extravagant costs for obsolete spare parts.”

He added that an upgrade will very likely increase throughput, improve energy efficiency, and decrease operational costs related to maintenance and controls.

Software updates also can enhance efficiency.

“Evolving, improving technology may offer performance and accuracy upgrades that may benefit older systems,” said Louis Schwartz, business unit manager, ingredients systems, Gemini Bakery Equipment/KB systems. “The general condition of system components or their obsolescence may also dictate an upgrade or replacement of components or systems, particularly with their controls. Unexpected downtime from component failure and excessive maintenance requirements due to wear and age may offer financial benefits to upgrading.”

This article is an excerpt from the March 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on ingredient handling, click here.