Born and raised in New Jersey, John Latshaw has worked in the baking industry for more than 30 years. He is a veteran of the US Navy, serving from 1984 to 1988 on the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise. Following his military service, he attended New Jersey’s Brookdale College, where he studied business. Mr. Latshaw then joined Adamatic Bakery Equipment, serving as manufacturing manager and national service manager for 17 years. 

In 2007, he joined Rondo, where he’s since worked as the company’s North American service manager. In support of the industrial bakery automation industry, Mr. Latshaw manages industrial equipment installations and preventative maintenance programs, as well as 11 field service technicians who handle troubleshooting and repairs. 

“I have always enjoyed working with diverse electromechanical equipment and people,” he said. “The baking industry is a perfect fit.” 

Mr. Latshaw said what he enjoys most about his role is visiting customer facilities and helping them achieve their production goals.

“It is a diverse industry where each customer/bakery has their own process for success, and I enjoy understanding how I can help,” he said. “I have respect for employees and the understanding of their importance toward the success of our customers through technical support within their bakeries.”

Can you describe the different levels of croissant production (artisanal, automated, industrial)? 

For a better understanding of artisanal, automated and industrial production, we can break down the croissant process into major components of lamination, sheeting, cutting and forming. Artisanal production consists of individual dough blocks with a typical size of 3 kg to 7.5 kg. The artisan baker can use machinery to automate the lamination process, the sheeting process, and cut and form by hand. The next phase of automated production still uses individual dough blocks with the addition of automating the cutting and forming process. Industrial production is a continuous dough band process with full automation of lamination, sheeting, cutting and forming.

The advantage of artisanal production is working with doughs that have a long fermentation process and a cold temperature. The cold temperature of the dough gives you the best fat separation in the lamination process. With that being said, these factors can be achieved in the automated and industrial process, but it is not as common. The artisanal production level does have a lower and limited production rate compared to automated and industrial levels. 

With the automated croissant production, the advantages are comparable to the artisanal croissant equipment, but increased production capacity is possible with the addition of more flexibility regarding size, shape and filling. Bakers will need to have the space available for the equipment and need to make sure that all areas of their bakery can handle the increased production levels. 

The advantage on the industrial level is mass production of croissants. With Rondo equipment, bakers have the flexibility of producing many various types of croissants while keeping the quality and traditional artisanal characteristics. A larger production facility would be needed for industrial-level equipment.

What are challenges they may encounter
 when automating?

There are many challenges when bakers are increasing their automation, including having qualified labor that understands or has the capability to be trained with the automation process. There is more to automated croissant production than just pressing a button. There is the need to always keep the process consistent. The best way to increase automation for bakers is to grow through each level, from artisanal to industrial, with each level offering its own challenges. 

Every step of automation requires different expertise that bakers most likely don’t have, and with each increasing level of automation this expertise is that much more important. The most important expertise includes mechanical and electrical maintenance personnel. Bakery machines need attention; they have moving parts that wear, and if not maintained properly, the bakers will suffer. Just like your car, if it is not maintained, eventually, it will break down and production will stop. Having the proper staff and program to perform preventive maintenance and having the recommended spare parts in stock needs to be part of the automation process. Operational management, sanitation and safety, to name a few, are other important areas in which bakers need to bring in experts to make automation easier. 

How do croissant lines today ensure flexibility for production of a variety of croissants?

Today’s lines need to have the flexibility and adjustability to handle all types of croissants. Automated and industrial-level croissant lines use computerized recipe handling through HMI (human machine interface) panels, which provide a croissant line operator an easy way to save hundreds of recipes. When these recipes are called upon, the croissant line automatically loads settings to prepare for each product. The line can adjust for proper speed and dough thickness, for example.

Automated and industrial-level croissant lines can also adjust automatically during production if there are some inconsistencies with the dough that require a setting change. This is done with sensors that check dough thickness, which in turn adjusts conveyor speeds to compensate, but this has a limit to how many dough inconsistencies this can compensate for. 

What may bakers overlook in their
 production process? 

One of the biggest things that bakers overlook is proper maintenance of their bakery production equipment. This can become an emergency and costs the bakeries lost production and a lot of money. This can mostly be prevented through proper preventive maintenance either through the baker’s own maintenance team or from the manufacturer, as with Rondo. We offer preventive maintenance programs for all our bakery production equipment.

We also advise investing in the proper employees to operate the equipment to ensure dough and process are consistent and the equipment is run efficiently, which achieves the highest product quality. These croissant makeup equipment operators need to understand when there is an issue with the product and what is causing it. Most of the time, when there is an issue with consistent dough sheeting and production or final product quality, the issue is caused by various contributors and not the equipment. Some examples include improper dough mixing, dough temperature, ambient temperature, operator loading the incorrect recipe, etc. The setting from the recipe that is loaded in the machine does not change over time on its own, and with the same dough and environment, it will produce the same product as it did when first loaded. The dough and the bakery environment can vary, normally causing product or sheeting issues. Having the correct croissant makeup equipment operators who can identify problems is very important.