Adam Oberheu began his professional career in the oil and gas industry, working 10 years as a cement service supervisor and petroleum drilling engineer in Colorado. But he was eventually motivated to seek a career that was less cyclical. 

“I certainly wanted a path that provided challenges and resulted in rewarding and meaningful impact on people’s lives,” he said. “The food industry has provided all of that.”

Mr. Oberheu has worked in the baking industry for seven years, beginning in 2016 with the Amarna Co. as a technical service engineer. The company was acquired in 2018 by Vantage, where Mr. Oberheu now serves as engineering and equipment manager for its food division, specializing in release agent equipment manufacturing, field service and innovation projects.

Mr. Oberheu said he loves getting to be an integral part of bakery operations whose products fill the market shelves.

“My friends and family find it fascinating the number of goods and processes our products and equipment touch,” he said. “I really love the challenging scenarios where our team comes into a site that is having severe operational challenges, and we can provide rapid solutions to get them back on track. Departing those facilities with a solution in place, a relationship strengthened and a smile on everyone’s face is so rewarding and motivating.”

The biggest operational challenges Mr. Oberheu sees are staffing shortages coupled with a need for increased production, which he tackles through Vantage Food’s automated solutions and his extensive technical knowledge.

“In many cases we are more familiar with our customers’ processes than the majority of their staff are, so getting into these bakeries and sharing this knowledge before issues arise is critical,” he said.

What are common issues bakers face with their release agents?

Many issues arise from incompatibilities at the beginning or modifications made over time. As with any topic within the baking space, it is incredible how technical release agents and their application can be. You can’t just run any release with any equipment or nozzle and modify the line without making significant adjustments or experiencing severe adverse effects. Even something as simple as conveyor speeds and pan flow is a prevalent issue. Conveyor speeds must match the bread pan oiler speed. If they do not, you will get pans backing up and pushing each other through the oiler, which does not allow sensors to work correctly and trigger precise spraying. 

One of the most common issues we see, which is very preventable, is release agent containers being left open to the bakery environment. This allows for contamination from flour, dust and sanitation water. This is very detrimental to the functionality of the release agent and leads to a loss of product and release investment.

What are the latest technologies at bakers’
 disposal in this area?

Modern bakeries are so intriguing and exciting, and this comes from technological advancements. The ability to remotely monitor equipment, adjust settings, sense signaling and direct flow are easy examples of how technology has led to such an increase in mechanized advancement at these facilities. Our equipment seeks to stay in line with these technological advancements and match the progression within specific bakeries. Our equipment allows remote-in control, automatically notifies plant personnel when there is a problem at our machine, and offers automatic adjustments for pan changes and cutting-edge PLC and HMI controls. These are all advanced technology offerings within our equipment solutions.

How can bakers maximize labor savings and efficiency with today’s oiler technology?

Product demand from bakeries is at an all-time high, but the challenges surrounding staffing and talent retention are also at an all-time high. Even though baking equipment and technology solutions can come with an expensive price tag, they can help overcome those constraints surrounding the cost of revolving staff. When our bread pan oilers signal that the reservoir level is getting low, the drum needs to be changed out, or the nozzle isn’t spraying, those are critical items that no longer fall onto plant personnel. Those bodies can be allocated elsewhere. Our oilers also can automatically adjust all settings between pan types, again something that used to fall to plant personnel to adapt and monitor manually. The modern technology in our oilers also allows bakers to tap in remotely to monitor and change all these items from their tablet or computer anywhere in the plant. Remote control and monitoring of bakery equipment by operational and engineering staff is a big focus we are seeing at bakeries. All of these quickly add up to significant reductions in labor requirements.  

What considerations should bakers keep in mind when selecting their release agent equipment?

First, make sure that it is designed specifically for your application. There are many technical considerations that should be evaluated and built into the system, including pan type, cavity shape, line speeds, output targets, nozzle cycles, routine maintenance requirements for cost and line downtime and ease of changeover between pan types. 

One of the most significant overlooked considerations is ongoing technical field support from the manufacturer. There are numerous release agent equipment options out there, but very few of those companies will continue to be vested in the customer and that equipment purchase for years to come. This is what makes Vantage Food unique. Not only are we an industry leader in release agents and release equipment solutions, but we offer those supporting pillars of in-plant technical support and equipment solutions. We have a staff with decades of experience — often more experience in these plants than many of the bakery’s current employees — who can quickly problem solve, optimize and keep plants from repeating past errors.

How does the latest technology promote
 sustainability for bakers?

Sustainability at the bakery plant level can easily be associated with the removal or reduction of waste. This can be the waste of the final product, ingredients, energy resources or labor. Sustainability is something that Vantage takes very seriously, not only for ourselves but for our customers and partners. When new technology is used — in bread pan oilers and cake pan greasers in our case — we can drastically reduce waste in these categories. 

Our new 3001 Bread Pan Oiler with PosiSpray Technology is a great example. Last year we launched a complete redesign of our top bread pan oiler, focusing on sustainability and increased operational efficiency. The new technology senses when the release agent is dispensed into the pans, and most importantly, it triggers warning alarms when the release is not sprayed into the pans. This could be due to a clog, empty reservoir, drum, etc. The technology in this system then sends direct messaging alerts to plant personnel so they can remedy it immediately, rather than hours later when the loaves are not de-panning properly, causing hundreds or thousands of pounds of lost product. Correctly utilizing enhanced technology at many levels within the bakery will help significantly increase sustainability measures.