As we wrote in the previous article in this series, sustainability is a broad topic. In this article, we’ll focus on seven ways you can optimize your equipment and processes to improve the energy efficiency of your bakery manufacturing operations. As an added bonus, these initiatives will also reduce your operating costs.
Much of the information in this article is from the EPA report Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Baking Industry.
Purchase energy-efficient equipment and parts
Many bakery facilities have been in operation for decades — still using the original equipment. There have been significant advances in the energy efficiency of bakery equipment during that time, so replacing older equipment and parts with new higher efficiency equipment and parts can make a big impact. This is especially important for ovens and freezers, the two pieces of equipment that use the most energy. (Ovens use the most energy, except in frozen food processes, where freezers are the biggest energy users.)
If a new oven or freezer isn’t in the budget, you can still improve energy efficiency by investing in new motors, pumps, HVAC systems, lighting, and boilers.
Chill the flour before mixing
Maintaining the right dough temperature is critical for yeast-based products. Chilling the flour before mixing can reduce the cooling time of prepared dough by 5 minutes. For products that are sold chilled or frozen, this in turn reduces the energy required during the chilling or freezing stage.
Use continuous mixing systems
Continuous mixing systems require less energy than traditional mixers, which not only reduces energy usage at the mixing stage, but also transfers less heat to the dough, which means less subsequent cooling is required. In addition, since ingredients are added continuously, the pre-blending stage is eliminated, which can cut the energy required for mixing by up to 20%.
Use gas burners when feasible
Ovens lose a lot of heat to the outside environment. Because of this, ovens typically consume five or more times as much energy as is required to heat the product. While the type of oven you use depends on a variety of factors (the most important of which is the product you make), gas burners are the most efficient. They can achieve 85-95% efficiency, compared to steam heat systems which are only 70-80% efficient and electric systems which are only 30% efficient.
Operate your oven for as short a time as possible
Since ovens use so much energy, they shouldn’t be sitting around with no work to do. Schedule your process to maximize baking time when the oven is on and minimize the amount of time it sits empty.
To avoid wasting energy, keep your oven heat-up period as short as possible. You can either use sensors to determine the minimum time the oven takes to reach the desired temperature or gradually shorten the heat-up period as long as product quality is maintained.
Use spiral coolers
Cooling needs to happen away from ovens, but long conveyors use valuable plant space and require extra energy. Spiral coolers, which can be enclosed to shield the products from heat sources, save both space and energy.
Clean, sanitize, and maintain your equipment
Proper cleaning, sanitization, and maintenance are crucial to keep your equipment operating at its best. For example, if the burners in your oven are covered with flour, they will not work as efficiently as they could. The same with the condensers in your freezer. Similarly, if you have air leaks increase energy requirements. Practicing preventative maintenance, rather than waiting until something breaks, will go a long way toward reducing your energy usage and costs over time.
There are many other ways to reduce energy consumption and costs in your bakery manufacturing plant. We recommend you check out the full EPA report for more ideas. If you’d like to learn more about energy-efficient equipment for your next project, contact us.