Jeff Dearduff has been in bakeries since he was kid, shadowing his father at his job at Perfection Biscuit Co., known today as Aunt Millie’s Baking Co., Fort Wayne, Ind.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Mr. Dearduff began his baking career in 1979 as a mechanic, which led to numerous leadership positions across the industry. He worked at East Balt Bakeries, now Bimbo QSR, Zanesville, Ohio, for 27 years in a variety of roles, including director of engineering and director of baking operations. Mr. Dearduff then worked at Aryzta, now Aspire Bakeries, Los Angeles, where in 2014 as senior vice president of supply chain services, he was awarded Baking & Snack’s Operations Executive of the Year. 

Next for Mr. Dearduff was the chief operations officer role at Gold Standard Baking, where he spearheaded development of the company’s Pleasant Prairie, Wisc., facility. He then led business development for the Austin Co. before returning to Gold Standard, now 37th Street Bakery, Chicago, as president and chief executive officer. In 2022, Mr. Dearduff joined Multivac as regional sales manager for Fritsch Bakery Equipment, specializing in sheeting and laminating lines.

With 43 years of industry experience across many high-level positions, Mr. Dearduff said his love for the industry still comes down to helping bakers solve the biggest challenges they face.

“My background, not being in career sales, has always been about selling,” he said. “The next new idea, project, concept and solution always required a big sell job to upper management, the check writers. Today in my current role, I approach things like I always have as far as providing solutions, and that in itself keeps me energized to keep going.” 

In this Technical Expert Q&A, Mr. Dearduff highlights the advantages of sheeting and laminating lines and how bakers can get the most out of them.

What is the difference between sheeted dough lines and lamination lines? 

Sheeted dough is actually an element of a laminated dough. Simply put, the same gentle mechanical processes that develop the dough sheet for bread doughs is the start of the lamination process. The sheeted dough is layered with a fat, butter or margarine, for example, then the dough is folded upon itself multiple times to create the flaky layers we find in fine Danish and croissants. These lamination lines require a different footprint than the sheeted bread lines. 

Due to the requirement to fold the dough on itself multiple times, the line is set up in a Z or U shape to accomplish that mission. This requires a wider footprint than the straight arrangement of a sheeted, non-laminated bread line. So if you think about it, a lamination line is a combination where a sheeted bread line feeds a laminator. There are instances where a combo line can be designed so that a single investment can produce both straight sheeted bread products and laminated specialties. While this might be the best of both worlds, you basically split your time between the two types of product. Your sales volume of these two types of products will determine if it is even feasible to use a combo line.

How can bakers incorporate automation into their sheeting/laminating line to boost capacity and efficiency?

Sheeting and laminating is not for everyone, they say. For the everyday loaf of bread or hamburger bun, bakers will always win when running ultra-fast conventional production lines. In these cases, speed or pounds through is what it’s all about. Sheeting and laminating is really for certain specialty items. When the customer is looking for a special feature in its product, the lower stress lines can lead you to the promised land. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a very large demand for say a sub sandwich bread, you can get a lot of pounds through a straight sheeting line. 

Similarly, how can they incorporate automation to help save on labor?

Here is where the real win can be. A fully automated sheeting line running a frozen dough product can be manned with minimal labor. One or two people along a line that can produce 10,000 lbs to 15,000 lbs per hour can give a nice “pounds per labor hour” factor. Also, some bakeries still produce specialty products on semi-automated lines which can be labor intensive. Moving to a fully automated sheeting or laminating line can reduce the demand for labor positions, and the company can focus on keeping the best people for the best positions.

What must bakers understand about their product and production goals before adding or upgrading their sheeting/laminating line?

First things first: Is the product a good fit for a sheeting or lamination line? Some products are best fit on high-speed production. The machine manufacturers can go a long way in helping a bakery understand what can and can’t be done on the line being considered. The machine manufacturers have a lot of experience across a number of products and all of their equipment. They can be a real ally in determining what works. The baker needs to understand that if they have a product list of 15 or 20 items they might want to move to the sheeted technology, but they need to be prepared to accept that a few of them will not be a good fit.

Why would a baker choose a sheeted bread line over a more traditional high-speed dough making process?

When you are producing a product, there are two key factors that will guide your decision on the type of line you might choose. Is it more important to make bread fast, or make bread with Old World quality? There are some products that would fall in the category of commodity. Products that are giveaways at restaurants, products for quick serve restaurants and products that have to hit a specific price point lean toward the make-it-faster choice. Products that require premium tastes and textures, those that have fillings and special toppings, will allow for a higher price point and lean toward the sheeted dough process. Speeds of sheeted dough lines have moved toward the targets of higher speed lines so the gap has closed between the two processes.