Perhaps the biggest challenge for bakers going forward involves finding skilled maintenance technicians to keep their operations running smoothly.

“Maintenance is a driver for capital spending these days,” said Peter White, president, I.J. White Systems. “The baking industry is struggling so hard to find trained technical people who are readily available.”

The Predictive System Alert from I.J. White continuously monitors and tracks the performance of critical components of a spiral system. Mr. White said conditions outside of the norm alert the operator and maintenance engineers of potential issues that may result in unscheduled downtime. The system is PLC-controlled with graphic display and real-time warnings of the status of key areas throughout the system.

Other devices like Ashworth’s Smart Spiral system can measure the electrical harmonics and alert operators of a potential problem, said Jonathan Lasecki, director of engineering, Ashworth Bros., Inc.

“A major part of predictive maintenance is monitoring change,” he said. “We’re looking at how everything changes over time. Is the amplitude getting bigger or smaller, and how does that affect the component’s performance in the long run? A trained person can see a belt that vibrates and bounces, but a small harmonic change or frequency change in a bearing, you may not hear it until it’s squealing, and then it’s too late. We’re trying to get to the point where we know this bearing is going to start squealing in another four or five days so let’s fix it before we get to that point. When you think about it, uptime is production, so unscheduled downtime kills your capacities.”

More recently, Ashworth rolled out its Smart Oven device for predictive maintenance.

“We talked to different players in the industry and the question has been, ‘How do you keep your equipment up and running?’ ” Mr. Lasecki said. “If the maintenance staff isn’t available when the machine goes down, then that system can be down for a while.”

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