Smart scheduling of production and workforce can help bakers manufacturing hamburger and hot dog buns make the most of their assets during the busy season. 

“Bakers must consider the highest volume products and design the line to optimize those products,” said Bruce Campbell, vice president of global product strategy, AMF Bakery Systems. “Being efficient at the highest volume products will generate the highest profitability. The right-sized motors, ratios and interfaces between sub-systems are all critical. Pay close attention to the inputs/outputs from each sub-system to ensure changeovers are simple and require the least amount of operator setup.”

Jim Fontaine, bakery field sales manager, Reiser, also stressed the need to consider a variety of factors to make the most of good scheduling.

“It is always best to plan the longest run possible to minimize changeovers and downtime,” he said. “However, in today’s order-driven world that is not always possible. Taking a good look at order history, considering the impact — if any — of COVID, what promos are being offered by sales, and even the weather forecast should all be part of your planning strategy. One can argue that this is a sales responsibility, but it also can help operations allocate resources and line time needed for summer and holiday production needs.”

High-speed lines are designed to run continuously, although some bakeries are still stopping for employee breaks and lunch, said James Kline, president of The EnSol Group. Fifteen-minute breaks add up to 20 to 25 minutes of downtime when considering the time it takes for workers to walk to and from the breakroom and restart machines.

“If you really time it in the packaging area, it’s typically going to be coming out 20 to 30 minutes of lost time,” he added. “Now you do it at lunch, instead of being 30 it’s now 40 minutes. All of a sudden out of an 8-hour day, you’re running maybe 6-3/4 hours instead of running through. If you’ve got a high-speed line, you just want to run it.”

Staggered scheduling with workers who can fill in for others while they’re on break solves the problem and maximizes output.

Changeovers are always a challenge for bakeries but planning ahead can help minimize downtime.

“Thorough planning of SKUs is essential to minimize waste at changeover,” said Joakim Nordell, export sales manager, Stewart Systems, a Middleby Bakery company. “Products with the same formula but different scaling should run together. Product with similar process time in terms of bake time should also be grouped together. Products with allergens should be produced last, as time-consuming cleaning operations should be scheduled at the end of the production.”

Planning includes making sure all components for a changeover are available when the time is right.

“All changeovers can be improved by not waiting until the last minute to ensure that all change parts are available and clean along with any tools needed to assist in making the change,” said Jerry Murphy, vice president of sales, Gemini Bakery Equipment.

Mr. Kline used the example of a racecar pit crew, which changes out tires in seconds, to illustrate why training is crucial to minimizing downtime during changeovers.

“Very infrequently do we find that the baker has sat down with their people as a team and said, ‘Look, we need to change over at 2 p.m. today to go from white to wheat,’ ” he said. “ ‘Let’s talk about what we’re doing along the lines. Do we have the parts sitting there next to the equipment to be able to do the changeover? How do we minimize the downtime?’ You have maintenance involved, and you come up with a plan just like they do in a Formula 1 race. Minutes are money. If you’re running 200 loaves a minute, being down 5 minutes or 10 minutes, you’re talking 1,000 or 2,000 loaves.”

This article is an excerpt from the February 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Bun Processing, click here.