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· How Technology Helps Bakers Survive Today's Juggling Act


No, one size doesn't fit all, but proofers and ovens now can offer greater durability and the ability to produce a wider variety of baked goods around the clock. With bakers and snack manufacturers juggling production as they diversify their product offerings to meet consumers' needs, they are demanding systems that minimize changeovers and increase throughput. Let's explore the latest advances in oven and proofing technology.

Juggling balls can be as entertaining as a circus act, but inside the bakery, juggling production involves anything but a ball. With the barrage of new baked goods bombarding the bread aisle, changeovers have become the norm and operators need versatile equipment to schedule everything in one day.

Gone are the days of dedicated lines and pushing a button and let it run, notes Bill Terry, director of sales and marketing, Turkington USA, Goldsboro, N.C.

“The difference today is that ovens need to be more flexible,” he says. “You have to make one product after another so your ovens need to offer that flexibility for the future. The proliferation of products has created a number of challenges.”

Austin Kozman, project manager-thermal systems and conveyorized equipment for Stewart Systems, adds that ovens by the Plano, Texas-based company “can handle pans and products from bagels and brownies to bread and rolls. Advances in oven technology, he says, have the ability to control absolute humidity, provide a wide adjustment in bake time, offer recipe control and come with steam tunnels up to 30-ft. long.”

To produce greater product variety, oven producers such as C.H. Babb Co., Raynham, Mass., and Auto-Bake developed hybrid ovens that can provide a combination of convection and convection radiant heat. Although the Auto-Bake’s Serpentine design reduces its footprint and saves space inside the plant, the company’s wider oven can accommodate two rows of baking trays, positioned side-by-side, to effectively double the throughput of its previous one-pan model.

“The uniform heat distribution pattern featured in Auto-Bake’s narrower convection ovens is maintained in the two-tray-wide variant,” notes Osvaldo Demin, the chief design engineer for Auto-Bake, which is represented by Lemont, Ill.-based Dunbar Systems in the United States.

“Products are baked from all angles – top, bottom and sides – which is ideal where products are closely packed throughout the baking process,” he adds.

For flexible proof-to-bake ratios, Auto-Bake’s system can be designed with up to three individual, Serpentine-configured transport zones, with an optional bypass, within one module. Depending on the required proof times and temperatures, bakers can run their products through one, two or all three zones, each of which can run at a different speed.

In addition to production flexibility, bakers are searching for space-saving ovens that can be expanded, as additional capacity is required. Turkington USA’s 935 Modular Tray Oven has a compact design with the capacity for 38.5 pans for a high output of bread or rolls. The heating system uses patented, adjustable Tri-Zone Burners, 360-degree rotatable air agitation tubes with control dampers and individual zone control thermostats for complete control of the baking process.

With rising energy costs and surging commodity prices, bakers and snack producers are doing everything to reduce overhead and to make their plant operate more efficiently and, if possible, around the clock.

The increasing pressure to extend the workweek to six and seven days can put undo stress on maintenance engineers to keep the bakery’s proofers and ovens running. That’s why Turkington USA featured its Auto Lube System One at last year’s Baking Expo. Using high-temperature synthetic oil, the system eliminates downtime, extends chain life, improves sanitation and reduces lubrication consumption.

Turkington USA can bundle the system with a torque-monitoring device that can measure the torque around the main drive to determine if there is excess chain pull due to a lack of lubricant or something worse, Terry says.

To extend oven chain life, Stewart Systems now installs a specially designed second drive that’s built to withstand temperatures around 600ْF inside its conveyorized ovens, notes Len Kilby, president. The second drive, he adds, reduces chain pull and improves wear resistance by 49.8%, effectively doubling the life of the belt.

Kozman adds that Stewart’s ovens also can provide energy efficiency via automatic process controls as well as minimum exhaust detection and control, high-velocity recirculation and specific burner location for maximum radiant heat.

When it comes to the latest oven and proofing technology, it doesn’t matter how many products are being produced in a given day. The new systems can juggle almost anything.

Editor’s Note: For more information on companies mentioned in this article, visit www.snackandbakery.com and click on the Buyer’s Guide.


Spotlight on Innovation · BEMA To Explore Sea Change in Industry

Online registration is open for BEMA's annual meeting, which will be held from June 26-July 1 in Newport, R.I. In addition to baking technology roundtables, the event will feature reports from Chip Klosterman, the new chairman of the American Bakers Assocation, and Robb MacKie, ABA's president and CEO.

Certainly, all work and no play makes for a dull time. As a result, BEMA, the baking industry's suppliers assocation, has scheduled a host of events, including golf, sailing, a Newport mansion tour and a clambake and lobster boil at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

For more information, visit www.BEMA.org.

Industry People · Organic Milling Names New Top Managers

Bruce Olsen has become president of Organic Milling as a part of the company's strategic growth plan for 2008. Additionally, the producer of granola and snack foods named Tony Sabatino as general manager of its Valdosta, Ga., cookie and cracker plant and Doug Nietering as director of private label sales.

"We are proud to welcome three individuals who bring both an impressive wealth of experience and collective vision of accelerated success and advancement for our company’s future," says Harish Chopra, owner and chairman of Organic Milling, San Dimas, Calif. “We are poised for significant growth over the next year and have now built the arsenal of talent required to meet the needs of our clients and consumers like never before.”

Prior to joining Organic Milling, Olsen served in consulting roles with Allied Old English and Holland American Wafer Co. Previously, he worked for Consolidated Biscuit Co. where he served as vice president of sales and marketing.

Sabatino comes to Organic Milling with a diverse portfolio of management positions in bakery operations for companies including Burry Biscuits and Delicious Foods, Sunshine Biscuit, Consolidated Biscuit Co. and Lofthouse Foods. Meanwhile, Nietering brings more than 20 years experience in private label sales to his position at Organic Milling. He had worked for Holland American Wafer, Ripon Foods, Bremner and Bakeline.

For more information on Organic Milling, go to www.organicmilling.com.

Industry People · Hartness to Expand in Emerging Markets

Phil Johnson returns to Hartness International as a part of the continued focus on emerging markets for this manufacturer of packaging line systems, including conveyors, accumulators, case packers, tray shrink solutions and more. Johnson assumes the role of managing director, Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) and India.

Effective mid-April, Johnson will work alongside Jean Marti, current managing director for emerging markets in an effort to drive further development of EMEA's sales and projects unit established by Marti in Germany in 2003. Marti, an industry veteran with 40 years’ experience, will continue in a hands-on advisory role for strategic projects and continued EMEA growth. Hartness is based in Greenville, S.C., in the United States.

For more information, go to www.hartness.com.

Systems, Components & Technology · Tips for Enhancing Your Distribution Efficiency

Whether operating an existing warehouse or preparing for a new distributin center, an efficient slotting plan developed from an in-depth analysis is an essential element of effective distribution center and warehouse operations. That's according to a report by Paul Hansen, senior project engineer, and Kevin Gibson, project engineer, at TriFactor, an integrator of material handling systems based in Lakeland, Fla.

Properly slotting a facility reduces expensive labor costs and dramatically improves throughput by increasing pick and replenishment efficiencies, increasing order accuracy and reducing ergonomic risks associated with improper picking and replenishment operations. A successful slotting plan also improves the capability to meet inventory rotation requirements, such as FIFO (First In First Out) and LIFO (Last In First Out).

When discussing effective slotting, the focus should be on determining the level at which the product will be picked (full pallet, case pick, or piece pick), the storage medium from which product will be picked (pallet rack, shelving, carton flow, etc.), the tools that will be used to facilitate the order picking process (paper pick sheets, voice-directed picking, pick to light, etc.),and the method of picking to be executed.

The primary consideration when conducting a slotting analysis and making these determinations is a company's SKU or product data. SKU information such as product dimension, weight and on-hand quantity are all key factors when determining the proper storage medium and handling methodology.

Though getting your hands around the collection of the full range of product data for each SKU may appear to be a daunting task (especially for organizations that distribute thousands of SKUs), recent advances in technology have greatly simplified the data acquisition and manipulation phase of the slotting analysis.

One such technology used by a number of companies has the capability to not only calculate the length, height width and weight of an item, but will also feed these data records directly into a mainframe or PC host. The tasks of collecting and entering the dimension data can be completely automated resulting in a significant reduction in the time, cost, labor, and potential human error that would normally be associated with performing the tasks manually.

Another important factor in the slotting analysis is the SKU or product velocity. Product velocity refers to the quantity and frequency of the SKU picked over a designated period of time. Some rules of thumb when considering the velocity of a SKU are:

1. Determine fast, medium and slow movers and place them in the appropriate storage medium (i.e. pallet flow, carton flow, shelving, etc.)

2. Examine both average and peak-picking days.

3. Store high-velocity SKUs in a readily accessible and ergonomically friendly area for ease of both picking and replenishment.

4. Establish whether individual SKU velocities are affected by seasonality or special promotions.

Attempting to effectively slot your distribution center or warehouse requires careful consideration of many factors and is frequently made more complex by incomplete and/ or inaccurate order fulfillment data. Good data leads to positive results; bad or incomplete data to poor results. Some common oversights often made by supply chain professionals when developing a slotting plan on their own:

1. Not designing a system with sufficient flexibility to accommodate changing SKU's or space needs. A fatal flaw for companies dealing with continuously changing SKU velocities or experiencing significant growth within the three to five year horizon.

2. Not taking the characteristics of their product into consideration. When slotting, the velocity of a SKU must be considered in order to increase pick and replenishment efficiencies. Size and weight of the product must also be taken into consideration to ensure proper pallet or load building.

3. Not providing a clear path for pickers. A congested route not only poses a safety hazard, but also increases the time needed for an employee to fill an order.

4. Not choosing the proper storage medium for each SKU. The characteristics of each SKU (SKU data) should be the primary consideration. Choosing storage medium based on other factors often proves to be an expensive mistake.

Though it may sound like future expansion of a slotting system in an existing building can be a major headache at best, and futile at worst, that's not always the case. You may have space you don't even know about. Space limitation can often be dealt with by off-site storage. You can also make sure there aren't a large number of empty pallets hanging around, eating up valuable (and costly) square-footage.

Ideally, when a new distribution center or warehouse is being designed, the material handling system along with the appropriate slotting strategy are strongly considered as critical components of the building design criteria However, it's not as easy as it sounds. The per-square-foot budget allocation for construction of the building is what drives the train. Planners often lose sight of the reason for the new building and the material handling system is frequently a last minute consideration. As the old clichŽ' goes, they are unable to see the forest for the trees.

Whether designing an effective slotting system from scratch, or working within existing structural confines, the key to developing a successful slotting strategy is an in-depth understanding of product characteristics and movement. All you have to do is look at the beer industry to know how true this is. Years ago when there were only a handful of different types of beers most goods were shipped in full pallets. But this is more difficult today. With consumer demands constantly changing, and the introduction of microbreweries, there are literally hundreds of different beer products, which involve more sorting, more slotting, and more labor.

All this has created new and ever evolving challenges with the way we do business. The people who oversee the day-to-day operation of a bustling warehouse or distribution center are often too busy to implement or analyze the changes needed, no matter how rudimentary they may seem. But supply chain professionals who know how to effectively slot their facility will possess a considerable and lasting economic advantage.

For more information on this company, go to www.trifactor.com.

Make Your Vote Count!

Which party will win the presidency this far? So far, it's the Democrats in a landslide, according to our unscientific reader poll. However, that can all change. Make your vote count at www.snackandbakery.com.

Green Mechanics

By Jeff Dearduff
J.Dearduff@comcast.net

A green mechanic just might be one of the most valuable people in the bakery in today’s crazy business world. In the past, the term usually stood for a crew member who had a lot to learn - you know, still wet behind the ears. Today, it takes on a whole other identity. The new generation of “green” mechanics includes those who can bring value to an operation because of what they know ... about “green,” that is.

The people who strap on the tool pouches in our operations are in touch on a daily basis with many of the areas that make up the expense side of the company’s ledger. They are dealing with equipment and systems that are using most of the electric power, gas and water that the company purchases each year. Having them trained and educated in the topic of conservation will lend to overall operational savings and better performance of the plant as a system.

Electrical power, or kilowatts, can be saved all over the bakery with some simple practices that can be carried out by the maintenance personnel as they move through their day. Turning lights out in machine rooms and parts stores when unoccupied might not sound like much, but when added to some of the more significant efforts in and around the bakery, these simple things can impact the overall electric bill in a positive way.

Do your mechanics understand Newton’s first law of motion? Put simply, do they realize the effect that friction has on the electric bill? In our bakeries, there are thousands upon thousands of moving parts, and anytime you mix moving parts with friction, your power usage increases.

For example, bearings that are on their last leg, conveyor pulleys that are rubbing the side of a conveyor frame and metal-to-metal wear can cause the load on the motor and gearboxes to be higher than designed and bigger than it needs to be. When a motor is straining, it is consuming more power than it needs to do the job effectively.

Additionally, educating the crew on proper sizing of motors is a place where power savings can be harnessed. If a motor is oversized for the application, you are simply wasting energy.

What about those pesky flickering fluorescent lamps throughout the plant? Yeah, there’s a cost associated with them. They aren’t putting out light, but they’re still sucking up the juice. A green mechanic always is looking for such power hogs and taking action to get issues resolved as a part of his normal day.

On the other hand, natural gas conservation is a little more difficult to get a grip on, but again, some simple education can pay off here, too. Proper burner adjustments, whether on an oven, a boiler or a large fryer, can leave some gas in the pipe that is otherwise wasted if the flame is inefficient. Better operational practices such as the timely lighting of an oven prior to production can yield some benefits. You need to heat the oven up before product gets to it, but how long does that really take? Determine the shortest amount of time an oven has to be turned on before baking, and adopt that process as your standard-operating procedure. Then inform the crew that every minute an oven is fired up has a cost to it. So what does it cost to fire the oven up too early? Try to calculate how much money is going up in smoke.

Water is the next place to conserve. Tray and pan washers, cooling towers and condensers are places to start looking for water use efficiencies. A misadjusted float on a water tank can send precious water down the sewer, causing a couple issues for you. One is that you bought the water and, secondly, you are paying for it to go down the drain before it has done a job for you. A harmless-looking water leak with a one-gallon-per-minute leak rate can toss a half-million gallons down the drain in a year. Water no longer can be taken for granted and must be conserved, especially if you consider the trouble that the drought-stricken Southeast is having with their supplies.

Other places where green mechanics can pay off is in and around the maintenance shop. Metal scrap can be collected for recycling at a later date, and boxes from parts orders can make it to the plants bailer for corrugated rather than the shop’s trash can. Anything we can do as an industry that reduces the loads on the landfill will benefit everybody in the future.

How do you get the maintenance crew to start thinking green? It begins with the manager. When the manager is setting the example, and positive results are publicized, others will jump on the bandwagon. Everybody hears the term “green” every day, so it’s nothing new. It’s just new to the workplace mentality.

If you set an example, the next thing you know, your crew will be coming in to work talking about the compact fluorescent light bulbs they installed in their homes or how they are recycling more than they ever have before. It’s all about a culture and a mindset.

For the betterment of the space in this world that we are borrowing right now, it’s time to start changing our own thoughts and the behavior of those around us on how we take care of precious Mother Earth. Remember, it ain’t easy being green, but it can pay off in more ways than one. SF&WB