January is here, and for many of us, that means business slows down. This is an opportune time to think about some preventive maintenance or to repair those problems around the shop that you have been putting off. Evaluate all your equipment and any problems they may have. This is the time to check belts, lubricate grease fittings, visually inspect movable parts for wear, check tensions on chains, or any small procedure you can perform on your own that might eliminate break down in the future. Schedule service crews if needed to repair any equipment that is broken. Keep a log book of work done, with the dates, for future references. I like to keep a monthly chart, with scheduled preventive tasks to be done on specific machines each month. Eventually, over the entire year, each machine will have had a thorough inspection and preventive procedures performed on it. I can schedule more demanding repair jobs to be done during slower times, or schedule HVAC filter changes to be done prior to the onset of summer. So, fix that drip in the faucet, grease the wheels on your racks or maintain your oven burner motors. Simple tasks you perform now may pay off big down the road.
Q: We have a small under counter freezer in our decorating department, and it has a lot of ice buildup inside. How do we prevent this?
Doreen, via email
A: This is typical when it is hot and humid. Even if the area is air conditioned, you may still experience this problem. You should be sure the door seals are in good order. These seals can fail over time and allow air and moisture to seep into the unit, causing ice buildup on the condenser and around the area of the door that is worn, furthering the problem. Also with opening and closing the doors, air is allowed to enter the unit. The compressor should have a defrost cycle that is on a timer with a minimum of four cycles per day. Add more cycles to the timer by adding pins to it–your HVAC serviceman can help you with this if needed. Some units need extra defrost cycles during the summer to compensate for the extra ice buildup. But even this may not be enough. During hot days, these units run constantly to keep up, and this also causes ice buildup. The only way to avoid this is to periodically empty the unit, shut it down and defrost it. Keep watch of the ice buildup, and defrost it as needed.
Q: We have a digital scale in our bakery and the displayed weight fluctuates. How do we stop this?
Richard, via email
A: The platforms on these digital scales need to be level to accurately detect weight. The base should have adjustable feet to do this. Some scales have a level installed inside the base; if yours does not, simply lay a small level on top of the base, and properly adjust the feet. Be sure to set the level left to right and front to back. These scales also have a load cell mounted in the base. This is the unit that detects movement in weight and transfers that to the digital readout. After many uses, it is normal to have some flour buildup between the load cell and the base. This alters the readings. Clean this area with either compressed air or running water. Be sure your scale base is water tight and completely dry when done. If you are still experiencing fluctuation in your weight, the scale needs to be recalibrated. Call the manufacturer or follow the instructions to recalibrate.
Q: I have been making rolls and hamburger buns by hand but would like to mechanize my production. Would a dough divider/rounder work for such an application?
Peter, via email
A: I think a dough divider/rounder is what you need. But before making any purchases, you need to ask yourself the following questions: What is the volume of rolls I need to produce? How much available space do I have for the equipment? And, how much money do I have available? Answering these questions will help narrow your search as you transition from hand work to a divider/rounder. Divider/rounders come in bench and floor models and are capable of producing up to 5,000 rolls per hour. Typically, the divider/rounders offer a 36-part divider with portion sizes ranging from 1 oz. to 2.75 ozs. However, options are available for 6-, 9- or 18-part divisions and weights from 2 ozs. to 26 ozs. You can choose either semi automatic or fully automatic units with 120V, 240V single phase and 480V three-phase options. A standard floor model is about 82 ins. high, 26 ins. wide and 22 ins. deep. Bench models are considerably smaller. If your funds are limited, look into buying a used machine; many are advertised on the internet. When purchasing used equipment, especially sight unseen, decide on a reputable vendor, get a warranty, and find out about their return policy and parts reimbursement if needed. I recommend contacting a local bakery equipment representative if you decide to purchase a new unit.
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. Grant is the production manager for Deising’s Bakery, Kingston, N.Y.