Before the advent of highly mechanized operations, ingredient receiving and transferring to various stages of the process was done manually, which often compromised workers safety and comfort.
With increased production capabilities, access to more financial resources and market growth, high-speed bakers introduced technology and specialized equipment to improve ingredient handling efficiency and secure workers’ health and safety.
How does it work?
Bakery products which lend themselves to automated ingredient handling include white pan bread, hamburger buns, hot dog buns and variety bread.
Ingredient handling systems are designed based on:
- Nature of baking process (e.g. dough system, batter-mixing method, restrictions in floor space)
- Investment capacity of bakery shareholders
- Hygienic design requirements for sensitive ingredients such as cream yeast and liquid milk
- Ingredient perishability (high water activity, oxygen-, light- and temperature sensitivity, or hermetic or airtight storage conditions)
- Type of ingredient (e.g. liquid, solid, semi-solid but pumpable, gas)
- Amount of ingredient to be used (e.g. minor and/or bulk quantities)
- Degree of flexibility that the system may provide for the manufacture of additional products
- Cleaning and maintenance requirements (e.g. possibility for CIP or COP)
- Food safety considerations for equipment (e.g. allergen management)
|Bulk ingredients (generally used in large amounts)
||Minor ingredients (used in smaller proportions, mostly dry or powder forms)
- Sugar and liquid sweeteners (HFCS, invert syrup, corn syrups, honey, molasses)
- Cream yeast
- Vital wheat gluten
- Liquid milk
- Liquid whole egg
- Dry forms of yeast (active and instant)
- Fat, shortening
- Mold inhibitors
- Dry whole eggs
- Dry egg whites
- Yeast nutrients
- Milk solids (non-fat dry milk)
- Dough conditioners (emulsifiers, enzymes, redox agents)
- Starches and gums
- Flavors, spices and colors
- Inclusions (e.g. frozen fruit pieces)
Bulk handling of ingredients requires higher levels of mechanization, data collection, instrumentation and process control. This is carried out using integrated lines of equipment and involves silos, tote bins, balance tanks. Materials are moved from storage to utilization point by means of pneumatic and belt conveying (dry forms) or pumping through piping (liquid forms).
Minor ingredients are usually handled manually. They are procured by the bakery in 5–10 Kg multilayer Kraft paper bags and transported via forklifts, troughs and mobile tanks. Microdosing systems can be installed to improve the scaling accuracy of micro and minor ingredients.
Automated bulk ingredient handling provides advantages although they still have some disadvantages. Following is a list of pros and cons:
- Potential savings in bulk ingredients purchasing and transport to the bakery (no packaging is used)
- Reduced labor requirements during receiving and handling of ingredients.
- More uniform and hygienic handling conditions.
- Improvement of overall plant capacity as more batches can be produced during a shift.
- More precise metering and scaling of micro and minor ingredients.
- Capital costs can be high to very high.
- Detailed quality control during receiving is limited. Sampling is required for bulk quantities.
- Higher risks of accepting a non-conforming lot of ingredient.
- Machinery malfunctions and breakdowns can become critical if not properly addressed.
- Cleaning and maintenance methods may require specialized, expensive techniques and tools.
Special considerations for handling flour and water
Aspects to take into account when handling cereal and grain flours include:1
- Biological hazards (mold and bacterial)
- Insect and rodent infestation
- Oxidative rancidity and eventual deterioration of baking quality
- Proper execution of pest control, cleaning/sanitation, and maintenance programs is essential
Treatment, purification and conditioning systems of incoming water include:
- Use of ion exchange filters for softening or demineralization of excessively hard water (may be detrimental to yeast activity and dough properties)
- Use of carbon or charcoal filters and membranes to reduce microbial load of incoming water
- Addition of minerals and salts (e.g. yeast food) to increase water hardness
- Addition of organic acids or monocalcium phosphate (MCP) to reduce/neutralize excess alkalinity in water
- Rosentrater, K.A., and Evers, A.D. “Flour Treatments, Applications, Quality, Storage and Transport.” Kent’s Technology of Cereals: An Introduction for Students of Food Science and Agriculture, 5th edition, Woodhead Publishing, Elsevier Ltd., 2018, pp. 556–562.