by Keith Seiz , contributing editor
The benefit of many new baggers is increased capacity.
New baggers are designed with fewer flat surfaces that trap crumbs and without exposed chains.
In the last five years, bread products have made gigantic evolutionary leaps in size, formulation and taste. The same cannot be said for the systems and machines that package bread products.
The evolutionary track of bread baggers has taken place at a much slower pace. However, that is not to say baggers have not progressed. In fact, recent, subtle improvements in bagger performance have made the machines more efficient, flexible and changeover friendly.
Bakers have recognized this, one bread bagger manufacturer says, as evidenced by the number of orders the manufacturer has received in the last couple of years. Although most of the bagger orders accommodate increased capacity, the bagger supplier also states that business has been good from bakeries seeking to upgrade their bagging systems to new and improved models.
Bakers who are replacing 20-year-old bread baggers will have improved bakery performance in many areas, but usually not where one would expect it most: capacity. According to one manufacturer, suppliers and bakers have worked together to reduce operational inefficiencies in bagging, and speeds have maintained a level of consistency over the years.
Instead of building faster machines, many bagger suppliers are focused on flexibility, sanitation and changeovers. "Bakers can spend an hour a day cleaning their machines and 30 minutes on changeovers," one bagger manufacturer says. "If we can take 30 minutes out of sanitation, that is a significant capacity increase."
The quest to improve sanitation conditions of bakery equipment has progressed quickly to levels previously only seen in other industries. "We've had wet-duty equipment for years that we've used in the dairy and meat industries, but bakers wouldn't spend the money," the bagger supplier says. "Bakers had been resistant to do anything but take an air hose and blow the machine off once a week."
This resistance has weakened in the last few years, and today, many bakeries have as impressive of sanitation programs as U.S. Department of Agriculture approved plants.
Bagging manufacturers are doing their parts by designing systems that feature improved sanitation features. One manufacturer of these systems even says that sanitation concerns will change the design and operation of bread baggers significantly in the next five years.
"From a sanitation standpoint, there are revolutionary changes out there to be made. There are a lot of things you can improve because right now, baggers have a lot of flat surfaces and a lot of places where crumbs can get caught in," one bagger manufacturer says. "We need to eliminate that by designing machines with surfaces that don't trap particles and don't have exposed chains."
Enhanced flexibility, reduced changeovers
Changing product lines in the bread industry has forced many bakers to upgrade their production systems to accommodate more flexible machines. Instead of operating dedicated production lines, more and more bakers are being forced to process a variety of products, such as wide-pan and whole grain breads alongside traditional white pan breads and even French and Italian style loaves.
The need for flexibility is essential for many specialty bread and roll bakers, and new bagging systems allow bakers to package an assortment of products on one line. One supplier's system is ideal for single oven bakeries that produce multiple SKUs. Besides handling sliced bread packaging duties, the system also packages loose rolls, cluster buns, hearth-baked breads and even donuts. The bagging system has separate infeeds for sliced breads and for all other bakery foods.
Another packaging system promotes flexibility and reduced changeover times with a duallane design. The dual-lane bagger accepts products in two lanes from a single infeed, and the lanes can be operated either independently or together. The independent lane operation setup allows bakers to maintain production on one lane while conducting bag table changes on the other lane.
With enhanced sanitation and flexibility, and reduced changeover times, bagging systems have evolved from their early counterparts. The next steps, according to one manufacturer, are further sanitation and ease of use improvements. "We need to design a bagger that takes 30 minutes of instruction to run it, not three months."
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