The latest in digital technology empowers operators on pan bread lines to track processing parameters to keep an eye on finished product quality as well as equipment performance to ensure that the line doesn’t encounter any unforeseen downtime. 

“These tools can measure precise amounts of ingredients, monitor the mixing process to ensure proper consistency, track the temperature and humidity levels during proofing to ensure proper rise, and monitor the baking process to ensure proper texture and crust,” said Ryan Costello, director of engineering, Gemini Bakery Equipment/KB Systems. “In addition, these tools are also used to monitor broader conditions such as production speed and labor costs.”

Armed with this information, bakers can not only improve finished product quality but also optimize production and find areas for improvement. 

“The ability to save money and become more efficient is a big upside to digital tools,” he said.

On the product quality side, baking companies can use digital controls both at the front end to prevent product from being out of spec or to catch out-of-spec product. 

First, as Mr. Costello mentioned, ingredients and dough temperature can be tracked to ensure the dough is developed precisely and correctly. Real-time monitoring can now catch issues early, reduce waste and improve consistency of product overall. Being able to track these parameters is even more critical as bakers look to fully meet capacity and reduce any waste in their facilities. 

“From the divider into the pan, the ability to monitor critical dough and depositing within very tight parameters maintains consistently higher product quality and ensures optimized production efficiency,” said Tony Ciminelli, Handtmann Digital Solutions (HDS) product specialist, Handtmann.

At the divider, there are several ways the equipment can detect if there’s an issue upstream. This is a critical moment for pan bread, as inconsistency at the divider will impact baking, slicing and packaging downstream. 

“For instance. if a dough is undermixed, it can be detected by a rise in current and pressure explained John McIsaac, vice president of business development, Reiser. “If scaling has changed, it can be monitored and reported by our Vemag Process Check. … It’s best to use the data up front to maximize efficiencies.” 

At the oven, Stewart Systems relies on vision systems and laser line scanning tools to monitor product before and after the oven. Before the oven, the system checks the pockets of the pan to ensure they are loaded with product. 

“We use this information to ensure that an empty pocket is not seeded or oiled, which leads to a cleaner pan and ultimately not having these items ‘baked’ into the pan,” said Adam Signoretta, engineering manager, Stewart Systems, a Middleby Bakery brand. 

On the other side of the oven, pans are monitored again to ensure that product isn’t left in the pan. If it is, the pan is removed and not stacked with product remaining inside. For product quality, Stewart Systems’ scanning tools monitor the size and shape of the product to ensure the bake profile is correct. 

“These tools can assist in making adjustments to the bake process to increase efficiencies and decrease waste,” Mr. Signoretta said. “Digital tools and new technologies might cause a little shell shock when you see the price tag, but the ROI can be seen almost immediately.” 

The other benefit of digital tools is in streamlining production. By tracking how production is running in real time, baking companies can discover pain points and opportunities for improved efficiencies. 

“Digital tools have enabled smarter food processing, including for pan bread lines,” Mr. Ciminelli said. “HDS offers simpler planning, automated monitoring, and line and department data-based decision making with clearly presented real-time production information for easy analysis and use.”

HDS documents real-time machine status and downtime causes. It also offers operators and maintenance personnel methods for faster troubleshooting. The system also provides step-by-step instructions for setup, relieving that pressure from unskilled operators. 

“This also supports quicker, safer changeovers and eliminates consistency issues around the highest product standards between shifts and over days,” Mr. Ciminelli explained. 

To help bakers get the most out of their production lines, AMF Bakery Systems has introduced the Bakery Intelligence portfolio. These digital solutions provide more production efficiencies, accessible knowledge sharing, quality control, product yield, profit and sustainable production. For greater control of the production process, the Bakery Intelligence suite is fully data-driven and engineered to reduce labor, energy and waste while increasing product quality. The solutions include AMFConnect, which provides access to critical production line information so that bakery teams can make faster decisions to improve operations and efficiency, and AMF’s Predictive Maintenance, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze data from strategically placed sensors along the production line to estimate when maintenance should be performed. Bakery Intelligence also includes managed services like the Sustainable Oven Service, leveraging a secure, encrypted connection to facilitate expert analysis of oven performance with recommendations for oven adjustments to deliver optimal performance and reduced energy consumption. 

Mecatherm’s simulation software M-Plan enables bakers to run simulations of their production lines. By running these simulations on a 3D model of the production line, bakers can optimize the line and discover the lowest possible changeover times. 

“As a result, manufacturers can prevent issues from arising during real production changeovers,” said Franck Ellenbogen, sales director, North America, Mecatherm Inc. “This reduces consequent product damage and losses.”

As a complement to the M-Plan simulation tool, Mecatherm offers its recipe follow-up program on its HMIs. The feature follows changeovers along the line to check that every piece of equipment is set correctly to match the recipe being run. 

“This way, production teams can ensure the product is made using optimal process conditions,” Mr. Ellenbogen said.

Predictive maintenance is a game-changer that digital systems offer. With so much data being collected on machine performance, bakers can evaluate the health of equipment in real time. When used correctly this information alerts bakers to maintenance issues before they cause catastrophic downtime. 

Mecatherm’s M-Care solution detects drifts and can send alerts in real time to any device the baker designates: tablets, computers or smart phones. Operators can check and react to those alerts, and then M-Care guides them through the first level of troubleshooting. 

“Our M-Plan tool helps manufacturers optimize production by minimizing and planning production line stops due to changeovers, while M-Care helps as well to optimizing the availability rate by preventing major breakdowns through predictive maintenance,” Mr. Ellenbogen said.

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