To speed changeover, analyze your process and look to newer equipment.
The old cliché is true–time is money. That’s why bakers are on a continual quest to hasten changeover from one product to another without incurring costly downtime. Less time spent on changeover equals more product going down the line and eventually sold.
A two-pronged approach helps here, experts say. The approach marries a review of the changeover process to isolate areas that need to be sped up with an investigation into newer equipment technologies that allow for a speedier changeover.
To begin, go over your changeover process with a fine-toothed comb. You’ll be looking for areas where you can improve the process. This might include places where operators can work faster, or where equipment can be reconfigured, says Drew Locher, managing director for Change Management Associates, Mount Laurel, N.J., which offers lean manufacturing consulting services. Lean management, a practice derived from Toyota’s production philosophy, deals in maximizing efficiency and eliminating waste.
Doug Ferguson, chief manufacturing engineer at Hixson Architecture and Engineering, Cincinnati, recommends adopting concepts found in lean manufacturing to simplify and speed changeovers. Lean management practice basically states that spending extra or unnecessary resources during product production–whatever the form–is wasteful and should be eliminated.
Ferguson recommends bakers develop a standard operating procedure that describes what is done during the changeover. Make sure it includes procedures for cleaning and inspection products or equipment.
Employees should inspect equipment to make sure any needed repairs are completed or replacements are available for the next production run and should make sure operators are fully trained in the changeover procedures, he adds.
Bakers frequently spend too much time dealing with the small parts needed for equipment changeover, Ferguson says. He recommends they track the parts needed for equipment changeover. If changeover necessitates special parts or equipment, bakers should consider color-coding them for organization. Or, they could label each part so it can be easily identified.
A bakery manger might even consider buying a special ‘part carts’ that can quickly be transported to the line, Ferguson says. Each cart has a specific, labeled position for each part. Parts can be cleaned directly on the cart.
And remember to store changeover parts in a secure, locked room for easy storage and retrieval, he adds.
Equipment makers have also been looking to ways to speed up the cleaning process, specifically between flavor runs.
Depositor makers like Hinds-Bock recently introduced features that allow bakeries to move from one product or flavor to the next very quickly and simply. The hoppers that hold the batter can tilt back from the depositor and are accessible at a lower level. This exposes the internal components to operators easier, making them easier to clean during a quick changeover, says Rodd Gregg, general sales manager at Hinds-Bock Corp., Bothell, Wash.
“Some hoppers are bolted on permanently, so you have to fill them with water and cycle it through,” Gregg says. “ But hoppers that are at eye level rather than six or eight feet off the ground make them much easier to clean. They’re like a hatchback car that gives you easier access to the back seat.”
Likewise some depositing machines are often bolted on the line and equipment makers are looking to change this. Depositors feature pistons that move back and forth to draw product in and must be cleaned when flavors are changed, Gregg says.
“So when you clean them, you have to take them apart individually and if the machine is muffin depositor, you can have ten or 12 or 15 piston rods that need to be cleaned,” he says.
Equipment makers are now producing depositors that can be pulled off quickly via release pins, rolled away, and cleaned. Then, a second, already-cleaned piston component is rolled onto the line. This takes changeover down to minutes.
“The whole bank comes off and can be exposed for cleaning and changeover,” Gregg says.
Reducing requisite parts in a changeover will also speed things up. According to Gregg, more and more bakers have purchased a second line or piece of equipment to stand by and ready for use. The standby equipment is swapped out during product changeover; no downtime needed. The used equipment is then cleaned and maintained offline.
“If a baker can afford it and doesn’t want any downtime when changing flavors, it’ll have a cleaned, secondary depositor sitting offline,” Gregg says. “They can roll on the depositor, which was sitting off line ready to go. It sounds extreme, but it saves money.” The cost of a second piece of equipment is usually nowhere near the cost of shutting a line down for a couple of hours to be cleaned. The cost of a $100,000 depositor could be amortized with the two-hour shutdown.”
Barring the purchase of a complete line, some bakers are choosing to purchase separate components for the line to make changeover easier, says Eric Riggle, vice president, Rademaker USA Inc., Hudson, Ohio. Equipment manufacturers are also introducing equipment designed specifically to minimize tooling use during changeover.
For instance, Rademaker’s croissant makeup line is composed of a long conveyor with various components attached. One component–the knives that cut the sheeted dough–includes gauge markers and easy-to-turn knobs for quick adjustments during production runs.
“For a bigger product, the knives might be at 15 inches; then for a narrower product they’d need to be taken down to 10 inches,” he says. “We don’t want operators to have to pull a tape measure out to make the adjustment—that takes time—so we have gauge markings that show the measurements and a knob to adjust.”
Some Rademaker customers have done the knob adjustment technique one better by purchasing a separate cutting component with cutting size preset. When it comes times to change cutting size on the line, the pre-sized knife component is dropped into the makeup conveyor and the other component is taken away for cleaning, Riggle says.
Other bakers have minimized the need for changeover by standardizing their product to a particular size. This does away with adjusting pan size, knife size, and the like, says Frank Achterberg, president, Capway Systems Inc., York, Pa.
“If you have a pan that’s 50 inches and the next is 30 inches, you’ll need to adjust the guides between the runs,” he says. “We like to see one length of the pan running the length of the conveyor. It’s usually easiest for bread makers who can run white, rye and wheat all in the same length of pan. It’s all different products, but they can be baked in the same pan.”
While equipment manufacturers have been introducing specialized technology to help speed changeover, it only goes so far, Locher reminds bakers. They first must look at their own changeover process to do away with blatant bottlenecks and then investigate equipment that can help.