As bakers begin tracking the progress of reducing waste in their facilities, they're liable to find savings in areas ranging from ingredient use to energy costs.
Like everyone else these days, wholesale bakers are looking to tighten belts and shore up budgets. Thoughts naturally turn to streamlining operations and trimming costs, usually by cutting excess materials, resources or processing time.
If they keep a few rules in mind, wholesale bakers shouldn't have difficulty finding ways to cut material and resource waste. Cost savings will naturally follow, says Dale Mediate, director of sustainability, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga.
“Waste can be found in a bakery in many areas: time, energy, water, ingredients, packaging, scaling, scrap, trash and transportation,” Mediate says. “In the baking industry, the one area that receives the most attention is scrap — process waste or damaged product — probably because it's the area most easily tied to cost. But bakers who are serious about sustainability must consider all forms of waste.”
Bakers looking to track and measure waste should begin by formalizing a method to measure it, he adds. Those initial numbers will not only allow bakers to hone in on processes that could be streamlined and resources that could be better managed, they'll give bakers a jumping off point from which they can measure progress.
Flower Foods measures waste against output, or throughput, Mediate says. Managers measure the input — or mix pounds — and then compare them against the output — net pounds sold.
“We define the difference between the two as waste,” he says. “Energy, water and trash are all measured as factors of manufacturing output or finished pounds. Transportation is measured against net pounds sold.”
“Our overall objective is to increase pounds sold while minimizing resources used to bake and transport our products,” Mediate adds. By measuring waste in this manner — mix pounds minus net pounds sold — bakers can isolate waste not tracked and measured by traditional methods. Such waste areas include efficiency, scaling and scrap.
“Every baking company's operation is different, so I really can't estimate what amount of waste reduction bakers could realize,” Mediate says. “I can say that the industry needs to refine the tools it uses to identify unmeasured waste. This is an ongoing challenge, but one that will yield new ways for bakers to approach waste reduction.
Tweaking the baking process can reduce waste in unexpected ways, Mediate adds. He offers an example from his own company of how waste reduction can benefit bakeries. Flowers found an opportunity to reduce waste by switching certain bread formulas to concentrated bulk liquid yeast at a more concentrated level than it had used in the past. The company worked with suppliers and with the quality control department to determine the right amount of concentration that would not compromise product quality, Mediate says.
The change to the more concentrated yeast allowed the bakery to run fewer clean-in-place cycles than it had run previously. It also reduced the number of yeast deliveries to Flowers bakeries — saving transportation and material costs — and cut the bakery's water consumption. The company has saved an estimated 4.7 million gallons of water annually as the result of the initiative, he adds.
Along with making ingredient and process changes, experts also advise bakers to look at energy use with an eye toward eradicating waste. The goal here is to find ways to deliver chilled water, hot water, compressed air and humidity using less energy, and in turn, lower cost. Of course, these cost-reduction measures need to be done without affecting the baking process, says Dave Laybourn, director of marketing, Lime Energy, Glendora, Calif.
Laybourn polled Lime Energy engineers, who offered several simple tips for isolating and ending energy waste in baking facilities. First look to your chillers. The simplest thing bakers can do is to keep the condenser fans clean. Dirt inhibits the heat transfer and restricts the airflow, which inhibits chilling capability, the engineers say. Also, determine the lowest condenser temperature at which the refrigeration equipment can operate. Try to run the chiller to operate as close to that temperature as possible.
Likewise, review your chilled-water requirements for each process and make sure that the water temperature is no lower than needed. When you know your chilled-water requirements, evaluate the local weather data to see if there are enough hours in the year when outside air temperatures can provide the cooling for almost free, according to Lime Energy Engineers.
Also consider combining your systems that operate at the same temperature. As production lines are added, often auxiliary equipment, such as chillers, are added as well. By combining systems, you may be able to eliminate a chiller.
The Lime Energy engineers also recommend looking to save hot water by reconsidering the water that runs through your water-cooled air compressors. A water-to-water heat exchanger can be used to preheat the cold water, which saves on hot water costs.
And just as in the home, the engineers instruct bakers to implement energy-efficient lighting and ensure the plant is properly insulated. When upgrading to higher efficiency lighting, bakers should look at the total power demand, in wattage, on a square foot basis. For most indoor lighting, the highest efficiency T-8 and T-5 fluorescent lights do the job for the least energy used.
They also advise bakers to make sure lights are located only where they're needed. Fluorescent fixtures with program-start devices and occupancy sensors are ideal in warehouse or storage areas where the sensors allow the lights to be on only when necessary.
“The professionals who work with the equipment in our bakeries and who bake, sell, and distribute our products have great ideas for ways to work smarter and cut waste,” Mediate says.
In addition, if you don't clue in employees to your waste reduction efforts and don't directly ask them for their ideas, you're overlooking a valuable waste-reduction effort, Mediate says. To that end, Flowers has developed employee-member Green Teams at each of its 39 bakeries. Members are volunteer representatives from every function within the bakery who are specifically charged with helping reduce waste and use resources efficiently. Such accountability helps ensure these volunteer members always have their eye on waste reduction, he adds.
Aside from waste-reduction efforts in-house, bakers should factor in the cost of potential energy and space savings when considering capital expenses, says Jim Diver, vice president of operations at Dunbar Systems Inc., Lemont, Ill.
Just as consumers would shop for the most energy efficient refrigerator — and the one with the smallest footprints for their needs — wholesale bakers should consider the cost of waste when pricing new production or facility equipment, he says.
Also, consider bringing in types of equipment bakery's may not have used in the past, such as newer compact baking equipment. Diver gives the example of his company's Autobake Serpentine Oven system, which includes a compact oven in which pans are conveyed through multiple horizontal levels in an S-shape. The space-saving shape also is incorporated within the system's proofing and cooling modules, he adds.
These types of ovens rely on a thermal-oil heating system. The same system also heats the wash water, saving natural gas use and costs. The oven also is designed to reduce wash water, using from three to 11 liters of water per minute, Diver says.
Equipment manufacturers are constantly changing and upgrading baking equipment to become more efficient. Stay on top of the trends.
In fact, to find and cut instances of waste — whether in energy use or materials — these experts advise wholesale bakers to be ever vigilant: now and into the future. As Mediate says, the economy may rebound, but waste-savings efforts are always important.