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Getting Back to Basic Bakery Maintenance

April 23, 2012
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We all know that little things can add up to big savings, and many of those little things are bakery basics in the plant. When was the last time you checked your compressed air system operating pressure or the flame on your oven burners? If you can’t remember, then it’s time to get back to the basics and keep tabs on things we might be taking for granted. A little preventative maintenance can go a long way.

Several basic plant systems tend to slip through the cracks:  Compressed air is often the biggest offender. First, check the operating pressure and, if you think it can be reduced, drop it by 5 psig and wait a few days. If the facility continues to run without any issues, lower it by another 5 psig and wait a few more days. Continue this process until you find the lowest possible setting on which the facility can run efficiently, and then communicate this setting to the rest of your team. Second, it might be wise to write a program to cover air leaks in the facility. It can be as simple as writing work orders each quarter or scheduling preventative maintenance every month to find and repair the leaks.

Third, maintain the system by performing preventative maintenance on the filters, separators and driers. Fourth and finally, audit the facility, targeting inappropriate air usage. Some examples of inappropriate use involve air motors, vacuum generators, cabinet coolers, vibrators and any other item that can be driven by electricity instead of compressed air.

Steam systems can be forgotten as well. Gather information on the entire steam system and read a few best practices technical manuals to reacquaint yourself with steam system components. Once you have a good understanding of the steam system, set up a program to find and repair steam leaks and test and repair traps and repair damaged insulation. Most steam systems are oversized, so consider lowering the operating pressure on the boiler to only meet the needs of the facility.

However, before attempting this, assess the steam system and ensure that all repairs have been made. Once you feel confident that the steam system is in good working order, begin reducing the pressure, taking steps similar to the compressed air system exercise. Make sure you have a good understanding of the process so that operations will not have quality concerns with the product. 

Oven and griddle burners are other basic systems that can often be ignored. Normally burners are either “on” or “off,” depending on demand, but when you look a little deeper, maintaining burners allow them to operate more efficiently. Burners should be removed and cleaned on a schedule throughout the year. And for that matter, clean and inspect mixing and piping devices and combustion air systems during this time. Once the burners are put back into operation, adjust the flame to the correct setting. Adjust the burner gas mixture to achieve a blue flame, with little to no yellow color at the top. Multiple resources are available online to provide a better understanding of what the flame should look like.

Sometimes we can forget about the basics. But I suggest these tips to get you motivated to review those hard-working systems at your facility and see if they need a change. Start with researching your systems online, and then talk with the equipment manufacturers and local vendors. We have had good results utilizing local colleges that often perform facility audits for free. All of these resources can help you calculate and better understand potential savings behind each one of your basic systems.  

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