Bakery Toolbox with Keith Grant, March 2012
Toolbox tip Buying top-of-the-line bakery machinery may be the best option, but that usually comes with a high price tag. It makes financial sense to have equipment that gives you many years of uninterrupted service. A little preventive maintenance provides many benefits. Not only does it extend the life of the machine and prevent untimely breakdowns, but it also helps make it safe for your employees to operate.
How long do you want your equipment to last? Almost everyone wants it last a long time. But the fact is, you most likely will need to replace a piece of equipment at exactly the wrong time. Sometimes, you can see the breakdown or eventual replacement coming and plan for it. However, it is very important to maintain the machines you currently have.
Knowing your equipment is vitally important–how it works, why it works, what you can do to keep it operating correctly, what it sounds like when it runs, etc. Each machine makes specific sounds as it works, and any deviation in that sound could point to a problem. Each operator should be aware of these things while using the machine. Do your employees know how to use the equipment safely, and do they understand how it operates?
When you compare the time spent on attempting to prevent breakdowns to the time lost when your equipment is down, you see that a little preventive maintenance is well worth the time. Check oil levels, belts, chain tensions, filters, grease fittings, gearboxes, drains, etc. These are just some simple things you can do to help your equipment run efficiently and safely.
Once you know your machinery, do you still need more help? Or do you have machinery problems now? Ask me, perhaps I can help you. Some problems are simple and can be solved using a few basic tools; some may be more complicated, but you may enjoy this type of work. Don’t be afraid to try it, but always know there comes a time when a qualified tech is the best bet–know your limits.
Q. I own a small bakery and bake mainly cakes, cookies, pies and pastries in a convection oven with great results. I want to add breads to my product line–French and crusty breads. Do you have any insight on what I should look for in an oven for best results with this type of bread? Jay, via email
A. You need to consider several things before purchasing a new oven, all equally important: price, oven size and capacity, service, efficiency and performance.
Let’s start with size. The space you have available and the volume of the bread you would like to bake will determine the size of the oven you should get. Consider floor space, ceiling height and wall clearances. The oven manufacturer you choose will help you with measurements.
Service, efficiency and performance all go hand-in-hand. You want to get an oven that will last for years with worryfree performance and consistent results while operating at as low of a cost as possible. Many of today’s ovens have high efficiency ratings and will save you operating cash in the long run. It is smart to go with a company that will be there when you need them, so I would find someone local to you. As for price, you need to know how much money you can spend and still see a return on your investment. Many types of ovens are great for bread production: stone hearth, cyclothermic and rack–in gas or electric models. You should look at several types, and watch models in action at other bakeries, if possible. Manufacturers will be happy to let you see their ovens at work.
Lastly, consider the utilities needed for installation, which can add high costs to the final tally. For electrical hookups, gas supply, water supply and ventilation, you will have to check with your local codes and the oven manufacturer to see what is required.
Q. The belts on our reversible sheeter are not traveling evenly and are fraying on the ends. How do we fix this? Dan, via email
A. The belts are easily adjustable. At the end of each belt should be two adjustable nuts, one on each end of the roller. These can be loosened or tightened to adjust tension on the belts and the travel from side to side. Too much tension on the belt will put stress on it and shorten its life, too little tension and the belt will slip. The proper tension leaves a slight bow on the underside of the belt and should be just enough to allow dough to pass through the rollers without slipping. To get the belt to travel evenly, each adjustable nut should be extended the same distance from the end. This can either be a measurement or counting the threads on the bolt. Once this is achieved, run the sheeter with no dough on it, and watch the travel of the belt. If it moves to one side, adjust the nut on that side to put more tension on the belt; this will cause the belt to move in the opposite direction. It is possible to over correct, so these adjustments should be done at half turns at a time, and allow a few minutes to take effect.
Q. I have a small bakery, and we use a natural gas candy stove to cook on. The pilot light will not remain lit on the stove. What can I do to fix the problem? Mark, via email
A. The first thing to understand is that tinkering with a gas oven can be dangerous, and the oven should be serviced by qualified a service person. If at any time a gas leak is detected, either by smell or sound, shut off the main gas supply and call for service. Allow the air to clear before lighting any appliance. However, any employee working with a stove with a pilot light, should understand how it works, and how to light the pilot correctly. First, make sure all valves to light the stove are off, open the top of the stove for a few minutes to allow any residual gas to escape before lighting a match. Then, locate the main gas valve, usually located somewhere under the stove. This valve will have a red button on it, you need to push in this button while at the same time holding a match to the area where the pilot flame will be and this should ignite the pilot. Continue to hold in the button for 30 seconds, and then slowly release the button, the pilot flame should remain lit. If it doesn’t, repeat the process one more time. If the flame repeatedly goes out, there is a problem either with the thermocouple or the valve. The thermocouple is a sensor that tells the valve that a flame is present, and it is safe for the valve to open. If no pilot flame is detected, the valve will not allow gas to flow to the burners. This is a safety mechanism. The thermocouple is a thin copper tube, with a bulb at the end of it that should be in contact with the pilot flame. This should be checked to be true, if the bulb is not in contact with the flame, it can be adjusted by carefully bending it into place. If the pilot will not light, the thermocouple should be replaced. This is a simple and inexpensive procedure.If this does not work, the valve is most likely bad, and should be replaced. These two replacements should be done by a qualified repair person.
Q. How often should we replace the filter on our rack oven? Don, via email
A. Much like the air filter on your home furnace, it should be replaced a regular intervals. Most likely the oven is in a production area and is prone to dust and flour buildup, which will clog the filter. This will cause the burner to run inefficiently, and potentially harm the burner or the heat exchanger. I like to write the date of filter change on the side of the filter so it is easily visible and replace the filters once a month. It is possible to periodically pull the filter and bang it slightly to knock off some dust, which will buy you some more time. Depending on the work area, the filter may last longer than one month, but should be checked monthly at least. I would recommend purchasing a pleated medium density air filter, with a MERV7 rating. The MERV rating determines the amount of dust the filter will trap, and usually goes from 1 to 16. The higher the number, the more dust that it traps. A rating of 5 to 8 is a better filter and commonly found in commercial applications. It traps dust particles a small as 3 microns. These are a good choice for homeowners, too. A filter with a lesser rating will allow too much dust to pass by the filter and enter the burner. This will dirty the burner assembly and cause burner inefficiency. A proper filter will prevent excessive burner repairs down the road.
Have questions about how to keep your bakery equipment running efficiently or what type of equipment is best for your operation? Ask Keith Grant, Modern Baking’s Toolbox editor. Send your bakery equipment-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keith Grant is the production manager for Deising’s Bakery, Kingston, N.Y.