KANSAS CITY — Automating lot tracking using bar codes and RFID-type scanners allows a single point collection of the data that can then be electronically transferred upstream, said Jason Stricker, director of sales and marketing, Shick Esteve.

Lot tracking often starts in the receiving area by scanning information from bar codes into a bakery’s system, which initiates those lot numbers to track the amount dispensed into each batch.

Kevin Pecha, sales manager, AZO, pointed out that a panoply of information on flour, water, pre-mixes, liquid additions, mixing parameters and even temperatures creates essential front-end controls.

“This batch record can be saved, transferred to a supervisory system such as an ERP system or printed for future use,” Mr. Pecha said.

He also pointed out that the past data will assist in future forecasting to procure more accurate production schedules.

Shick Esteve’s Automated Ingredient Management (AIM) software integrates with new and existing automated ingredient handling systems.

“AIM provides recipe and batch management, production scheduling, lot tracking, traceability and process data acquisition,” Mr. Stricker said. “AIM is able to integrate with various front-end management software seamlessly. We can push data upstream to eliminate data entry requirement or allow their system to extract the data required for reporting. All data can be warehoused onsite or in the cloud, allowing for extensive and complete recordkeeping.”

Bühler developed the WinCos system that includes recipe management, lot number traceability, contamination control, product interlocking and trend visualization, just to name a few.

“The WinCos automation system has been developed to deliver the functionality needed in a modern food business,” said John Hunter, sales account manager, bakery and ingredient handling, Bühler Inc.

Zeppelin System USA offers its Production Resource Information System Management Applications (PRISMA) suite.

“The PRISMA system can integrate the manual scaling process with the automated bulk handling and batching system, prompt operators for required ingredients, monitor the accuracy of manual as well as automated scaling actions against preset tolerances, and record the results instantly,” noted Joseph Cross, process manager.

Barcode labelers and scanners track ingredients from incoming shipments through intermediate scaling to final point-of-use control.

“PRISMA can also provide one-up/one-down supply chain traceability for smaller companies without large ERP/MES systems by allowing users to set up suppliers and customers to integrate with lot tracking,” Mr. Cross explained. “This functionality provides preconfigured reports showing what lots from which suppliers went into every batch produced for each customer order over any selected timeframe.”

A lot of accuracy

Traceability is a critical component in achieving compliance with regional and international government regulations as well as with countless audits and Global Food Safety Initiatives, observed James Toole, ingredient handling product manager at Gemini/KB Systems.

“Bakeries are becoming more astute with respect to increasingly stringent regulations governing lot tracking and food safety,” he said.

Gemini/KB Systems’ automated ingredient storage and handling systems provide devices such as load cells on bulk ingredient bins, loss-in-weight feeders for minor ingredients and mass flow meters for liquid ingredient handling. Mr. Toole said these systems interface with a bakery’s ERP management software to manage inventory levels, provide lot costing and track ingredients from receipt through finished product.

“Our customers rely on lot tracking for product recalls and product warnings as well as for better inventory management purposes,” he said.

Mr. Hunter noted mass flow discharge systems from bins and silos allow bakeries to carry out lot number tracking for bulk ingredients and those that have been dispensed to intermediate silos. Bühler designs its systems to ensure accurate ingredient handling and physical separation of allergens or organic materials.

“Integrating bar code lot number capture systems with the pneumatic transfer line for bulk intake, or bag tipping points, will enable a bakery to prevent a system start-up if an operator tries to send the wrong ingredient to a destination bin,” he said.

Mr. Hunter added that product interlocking also prevents a transfer line from starting if the wrong ingredient is about to be put into an intake line.

To ensure accuracy, Mr. Toole recommended periodic calibration of all the measuring devices by trained in-house personnel.

“Calibrating these devices will confirm the weight of ingredients are exact and as precise as possible,” he said. “This can help with calculating costs and find any discrepancies between amounts delivered versus quantities used.”

Mr. Toole added that calibration frequencies range from monthly or quarterly to weekly or even daily, depending on the needs of the operation.

Not a lot of water

From an ingredient handling perspective, controlling water usage and temperature — especially with temperamental doughs — safeguards critical process consistency from the get-go, said Darren Adams, vice-president of engineering, The Fred D. Pfening Co. Often bakeries need to use ice or mechanical chilling to ensure proper dough temperature.

“It’s really a science to determine what the right temperature of ingredients should be,” Mr. Adams said. “Sometimes, the easiest way to achieve that end dough temperature is to chill the mixing jacket itself. The dough is making contact with that very cold surface. More often, bakers just want to add as cold of water possible until they reach that dough temperature they need.”

Pfening’s Enviro-Blender incorporates up to three temperatures of water such as cold, city tap and hot water to reach a formula’s optimum level.

“When the water is not cold enough, we’ll make a brine solution, assuming the dough accepts salt, and we can then provide really cold water,” Mr. Adams explained.

The water-saving blender serves up to three mixers, gives a flow rate of up to 300 lbs a minute and offers 10 batch and temperature set-points with touchscreen controls. It also can be integrated into older equipment and in newer software management systems.

Mr. Adams added that Pfening’s metering system, with flow rates up to 400 lbs a minute, also handles oils, corn syrup and a variety of other liquid ingredients.