Larger bakers - we’re talking business size not belt girths here - have long recognised the benefits of automatic roll plant. But what about the smaller guys - again, not the vertically challenged - who are thinking of improving efficiencies by automating?

The worry is that automated bread lines are not gentle enough for things like speciality breads and rolls, which often require a lower stress on the dough. It’s little surprise then - what with the revival of these types of breads - that the low-stress kit on the market has been gaining in popularity.

"Interest in them is higher than ever, because bakers recognise the benefits its gentle dividing and rounding action brings to their finished roll products," says EPP’s director Stewart Morris.

Those who visited the EPP stand at last month’s Baking Industry Exhibition (BIE) saw the new version of its small automatic dough dividing and rounding machine, the two-pocket Futura version of its König Mini-Rex.

Techie spec:

l Produces up to 4,000 pieces an hour, handling a wide range of doughs with a gentle dividing and rounding action

l Has a small footprint and only needs one person to operate it

l It’s claimed to be easy to clean and maintain

l Up to 50 product settings can be stored, with the computer controlling dough piece weight, stroke speed, run quantity, rounding speed, rounding pressure and rounding action.

== Eurobake’s affordable option ==

Meanwhile, a new bread plant from Eurobake offers craft bakers the opportunity to automate bread production "at an affordable cost", which can’t be bad. The modular, plug-and-play units include a gentle action dough divider, optional conical rounder, longmoulder and intermediate prover that can easily be incorporated into a system.

With an enticing-sounding "high-performance, gentle suction action", the dough divider provides stress-free handling of a range of dough types, says Eurobake. All bread plant units are available as separate machines.

Techie spec:

l It has a low charging height of approximately 1.4m for easy manual loading of the standard 40kg capacity dough hopper

l The divider, longmoulder and conical rounder can handle up to 2,000 pieces per hour

l The mobile divider unit is manoeuvrable and is supplied with belt oiling, automatic weight adjustment, variable speed control and flour duster as optional extras, with a weight range up to 1,750g

l A piece counter with auto-stop facility is included within the standard specification

l The intermediate prover is available in a range of variants with up to 416 pockets, with left or right loading options, fitted with cotton or nylon pockets

l A longmoulder with gentle moulding action can handle dough pieces up to 1,000g in weight.

== Stress-free sheeting ==

Canol make-up, sheeting and laminating lines are suitable for the continuous automatic production of shortcrust, puff and Danish pastry without any stress. So what’s this doing in a feature about bread and roll plant? Well, because Canol says it has fixed or wheel-in units to "suit virtually every product ranging from ciabatta to croissants and pizzas", so who are we to argue?

This means that sensitive doughs with high water content and an extended resting time can be handled gently and a wide variety of different products can be made without compromising product quality or plant efficiency. The same applies to product filling and decoration.

Techie spec:

l The basic Canolino is better suited to small- to medium sized companies having a standard 600mm-wide conveyor belt, a four-lane depositor for sweet or savoury fillings, docking rollers, cross cutters and a guillotine mounted on a modular frame with wheels

l A key feature is the integration of the "zero stress" dough extruder and automatic fat extruder at the front end of the line with time and temperature controlled resting belts

l The configuration of the dough laminating sections can be the traditional L, U or S shapes, customised to suit space availability

l The quantity, layout and specification of cross, gauging and multi-rollers is determined by the number of laminations and capacity required.

== Avoiding repetitive strain ==

Rondo also saved up its good stuff for BIE and used it as the launchpad for a new range of mechanical sheeters. Rondo says the Econom gives the "maximum performance in the smallest space", though we wouldn’t recommend installing one in your coat locker.

This stainless steel mechanical sheeter is claimed to be easy to clean and is designed to avoid repetitive strain, while all the mechanisms are inside so there is no risk of contamination. It’s said to be suitable for all kinds of dough, and comes as a table-top or A frame making it suitable for craft bakers or cake shops up to larger wholesale suppliers.

Techie spec:

l Width of conveyor belts: 475mm

l Required floor-space in working position with catch pans extended is 1,040 x 1,550mm, while in resting position it’s 1,040 X 815mm

l Uses a special, tried-and-tested scraper system, that reliably removes dough and flour residues. This means that even tricky or very thin doughs can be processed without tearing

l You can quickly remove the scraper for cleaning without the need for tools.


=== Bigger toys for bigger boys ===

König has also developed the Grande Rex to cater for extremely large weight ranges. The unit can process dough pieces up to 320g, allowing it to be used in the production of pizzas, baguettes and bread products, with up to 36,000 pieces an hour in up to 14 rows. The same principles of the Canolino (left) apply to the larger Canol line (represented in the UK by CBES Food Systems), which is available in 600, 800, 1,000 and 1,200mm working widths and has a higher linear speed and dough hopper capacity for increased throughput. Larger Teflon coated hoppers are also available from Eurobake for bakers with high volume or specific recipe demands.


=== Case study: Warry’s Bakery ===

Warry’s Bakery, the only commercial bakery on the 24-square mile island of Guernsey, employs 65 people and supplies Guernsey’s shops, supermarket in-store bakeries, hotels, restaurants and beach kiosks with bread and baked goods including the famous Guernsey Gache.

At the height of the tourist season, and if one of its retail customers is running a promotion, Warry’s will be making 150,000 rolls a week on the plant, including frozen dough pieces to be baked-off in store. The first thing it wanted to produce was a range of finger and round rolls, including a 130g Viennoise roll, finger and round doughnuts, and fruited and seeded products.

Last month, it became home to a new ’Combi’ five-pocket roll plant. General manager Derek Charlton who has worked for the company for 17 years, opted for a machine with pre-rolling unit, an intermediate resting chamber with nearly 200 swing pockets, a forming station for the production of baps and finger rolls and a traying up section to accurately place the dough pieces onto the baking trays.

"The roll plant in our bakery was 20 years old and simply needed replacing. I was impressed by both the depth and gentleness of the mould of the König roll plant," he says.

The new equipment - a König Rex Automat Futura II Combi modular combination five-pocket roll plant - was installed by EPP. It is capable of producing up to 9,000 products an hour depending on the scaling weight, the dough and type of roll being produced.


=== Pimp your plant ===

A bit like a slinky - those coils of wire that kids drop down stairs - Flexy has a range of flexible, mobile, expandable twin-roller or skatewheel conveyors that, when not in use, compact to one-third of their extended length. They can be quickly and easily connected together, if you wanted to supersize your slinky.

These modular conveyors are said to be particularly suitable for end-of-line packaging and the loading/unloading of vehicles with cartons and trays. The range includes a fully adjustable 10-40m per minute speed model, and twin roller and skatewheel modules. They come with optional widths and features for pimping your conveyors.