When it comes to preventing waste in sweet goods processing, downtime is a threat to consistent products and an opportunity for waste to happen. Downtime occurs for many reasons. Sometimes it’s unexpected in the event of equipment or component failure. Other times it’s inevitable as in the case of a product changeover or sanitation. Getting the production line back up to speed is critical to reducing the amount of downtime, expected or unexpected, as well as any waste that may result. 

Bakers can minimize unexpected downtime through proper maintenance and proper operating procedures. 

“A small amount of maintenance can make a big difference and ensure your product is running at maximum efficiency,” said Dave Kollar, senior sales manager, Rondo. “Components such as flour dusting, depositing and strewing equipment, tooling, and belt adjustments all have a cumulative effect if not maintained and operated properly. For example, a simple adjustment with a flour duster can result in savings of hundreds of pounds of flour per day or week.” 

To handle predictive maintenance, Mecatherm offers its M-Care digital system that informs operators about a machine’s health. The system can alert operators and help with problem-solving before there is a downtime-inducing problem and therefore eliminate unnecessary waste. If unplanned downtime does occur, Mecatherm recommends integrating a buffer zone into the production flow to avoid wasting product. 

Changeovers are another form of downtime that requires equipment to be swapped out and parameters shifted. While technology has made changeovers faster than ever, avoiding unnecessary stoppages is ideal. That comes down to production planning. 

“When you’re looking at production schedules, there are a lot of products that are similar in nature and lend themselves to easier changeovers,” explained John Giacoio, vice president of sales, Rheon USA. “When those products are stacked against each other, it makes for faster changeovers while also reducing loss in ingredients. For example, a baker could run products using similar doughs one right after the other and reduce the amount of scrap.” 

This eliminates the need to change parameters like dough width that will require some adjustments as the line gets back up to 100%, resulting in loss of product. 

When significant changeovers are necessary, a smooth transition comes down to modular equipment, accessibility, quick change tools and automated equipment that can adjust with the push of a button. 

Modular equipment are machines that can be easily added in or removed from a production line to provide more capabilities. Rather than change out components on a piece of equipment, which could require tools and a skilled worker, these machines can be simply wheeled in and out. 

“Production lines by AMF Tromp are designed for flexibility, both during use and in cleaning after or in between runs,” said Hans Besems, executive product manager, AMF Tromp, an AMF Bakery Systems brand. “The modularly built lines can be equipped with units for specific tasks, like topping, filling, decorating and more. These can be switched over by just wheeling them in and over to the line with their c-frame construction.”

Modular equipment, or as Mr. Kollar refers to it as “plug-and-play,” requires little skill to incorporate new products into production, thus maximizing versatility.

“If you want to change or add components on some types of lines, you may need a programmer whereas with a modular line you can add things with simplicity,” he said. “For example, on some of our lines you can add different types of feeding systems at the start of the line and panning systems at the end of the line via a simple electrical interface.”

Fritsch’s Multiflex L 700 is built for changeovers with a modular construction. This system enables operators to replace components without any special tools. 

Many depositors are designed to work this way as well since these machines can be time-consuming to clean between products. As Bob Peck, vice president of engineering, E.T. Oakes, noted, the company designs manifolds for each pan type, size or type of product. Having a second manifold for redundancy allows operators to change between products very quickly. 

“All they have to do is disconnect the feed connection; there are four bolts and then they can have the second manifold in place while they clean the first,” he explained. 

To make things even easier on operators, Axis Automation incorporates a standardized rail and transfer cart system to enable swaps to be made even faster. The company’s approach to modular equipment incorporates an integrated conveyor for each module. 

“This approach makes it easy to move equipment around to adapt to dispense batters, toppings, frosting and other finishes in a different sequence,” said Chuck Sena, director of sales and marketing, Axis Automation. “All the equipment is on casters and uses quick connectors and communication over ethernet, which also allows bakers to use the same piece of equipment on several production lines if needed.”

Changeovers that need tooling and component changes can often require operator skill, but even in these cases, suppliers are designing the equipment to be changed quickly and easily. 

“Improving changeovers requires fast tool changes, which can be implemented with little manpower and in the shortest possible time, plus an intelligent software solution, which must also be designed for fast production changes,” explained Matt Zielsdorf, director of sales, Fritsch USA, a Multivac company. 

Frtisch’s Multiflex L 700 combines both gentle handling to preserve consistent dough quality with specialized accessories that improve the line’s flexibility. 

“A number of specialized accessories allows the Multiflex L 700 to be configured for almost every product, range and operating process,” Mr. Zielsdorf said. “This machine has a special feature: The entire cutting system moves synchronously while cutting is taking place. This is how the pieces are neatly cut and keep their form.”

Depositing and finishing equipment often requires the most flexibility as these are the ways in which bakers often differentiate products: multiple flavored fillings or a variety of toppings. 

“We see more and more demand for equipment that can handle production in a more flexible way,” said Sonia Bal, director of marketing, Unifiller. “For producers who make multiple sweet goods, it’s about the ability of our depositor to handle multiple SKUs and varieties through the addition of specific product cylinders, different heads or attachments, or with dialed-in recipes via servo models. The same depositor that does large round cake batter deposits could easily also decorate the cake.”

Rod Gregg, executive vice president, Hinds-Bock, a Middleby Bakery company, pointed out that it’s important that a depositor can handle a wide range of viscosities.

“By purchasing equipment that can handle various viscosities on the same machine it allows bakers to be able to run new products on the line as their business grows,” he said. “Our machines can handle pure batters like cake to batters with large particulates such as blueberries or chocolate chips. We can custom design a depositor for a specific pan or certain width of the line.” 

Changing out the tooling or even the guillotine on the pastry line requires components that can be swapped out quickly and safely. And all of this adds to the efficiency of the production line. Because of the various tooling options, Rademaker’s pastry makeup lines can provide bakers with a variety of shapes, decorating and finishing.

“The overall setup of the line is designed for high production efficiency,” said Nick Magistrelli, vice president of sales and marketing, Rademaker USA. “This is enabled with easily removable tools, fewer change parts, exchangeable scrapers and bins, and various options to minimize required cleaning efforts.”

With so many options — flour removal brushes, circular cutters, rolling-folding-shaping equipment, guillotine cutting knives, stamping tools and high-speed guillotines — it’s easy to see how changing out components and equipment could get complicated and slow. Rademaker designed its Tool Assistant to simplify the process. This program contains a chronological list of tools for each changeover, and line configurations and tooling information can be saved, which makes line settings more repeatable. 

“All line and tooling data can be exported to the operator panel, a tablet or printed as a hard copy,” Mr. Magistrelli explained. “To make the Tool Assistant even more user-friendly, pop-up screens explain the settings to operators.” 

The other side of changeovers is the software. Many aspects of changeovers have been automated, which again, eliminates the opportunity for operator error at a vulnerable moment in production. 

“Bakers don’t want to fully stop the machine because during downtime, they’re losing money,” Mr. Giacoio explained. “Rheon tries to make those changeovers as fast as possible.”

Saving recipes — process parameters and settings — into a software program allows operators to simply select the correct recipe, and the software adjusts the equipment automatically. 

“With the recall of a SKU, the machine can recalibrate and make those adjustments with just the push of a button, which definitely creates a faster changeover,” he said. 

Recipe control can even assist at the depositor. 

“Referring to our Pro Series, recipe storage is a great tool that lets producers record their deposit profiles and quickly switch over when needed,” Ms. Bal said of Unifiller’s recipe storage program. “Unifiller has had some recent developments that include control from a smart phone with our Total Care app as well as easy integration with other equipment providers.”

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