Dough can take a beating when it goes under the knife, and product quality becomes a concern for bakers, particularly those who make open-cell bread and rolls. “In artisan-style products, the dough is alive,” says John Giacoio, national sales director for Rheon USA. “From the beginning of a batch to its end, that dough is beginning to gas out, and the specific gravity of the dough does not remain constant.”
Dividers can prove to be the cash register in the bakery. It’s where the baker’s margin can be gained or lost. “Accurate scaling is critical to the profitability of any baking operation,” says John McIsaac, vice president of strategic business development for Reiser. “The closer our customers can maintain their scaling to label weight, the more money they can make.” By portioning precisely and gently, bakers can deliver to customers exactly what they are promised on the package: quality bread at a very precise weight.
From a mechanical standpoint, it’s important that the divider treat the dough in a gentle fashion to maintain the structure created in the mixer and during fermentation.
Tolerances between ram, knife and pistons must be very tight, according to Rob Francis, chief bread engineer for Baker Perkins. This is necessary to maintain the dough’s volume while pushing it through the divider and to minimize any losses of air or dough via clearances in the ram-and-knife assembly.
Consistent dough handling helps maintain dough rheology, which in turn helps maintain accuracy through the batch. If the rheology remains the same, so will the weights. “The most consistent dough handling occurs when it is moved gently with reduced stress and minimal temperature rise within a batch and from dough batch to batch,” says Cesar Zelaya for Handtmann. Hantmann’s VF 600 B divider maintains the dough’s characteristics with its gentle handling. The company’s vane-cell technology reduces product stress and brings dough along a shorter travel path, minimizing the opportunities for stress.
Rheon’s V4 stress-free dividers are gentle enough to be used on high-absorption artisan breads and laminated doughs. The company’s gravimetric method for weighing and cutting divides gassy doughs accurately without exerting any mechanical force on the dough. At the 2016 International Baking Industry Expo, Rheon featured its Flex Width Divider, which allows bakers to change the width of the dough being put on the conveyor, thus cutting the amount of trim.
Without an accurate divider, bakers can easily fall into the trap of over- or under-selling their product.
“Accuracy is very important to meet regulatory requirements with respect to sell weight of the product,” said Ken Johnson, president of Gemini Bakery Equipment Co. “A high weight variance from a divider would require a higher target weight during manufacture to keep from falling below the minimum weight declared on the package. This results in more giveaway and higher product costs.”
Reiser’s Vemag divider’s accuracy comes from its double-screw transport system, technology that ensures accurate scaling while maintaining product quality. To further improve dough quality, Reiser’s latest advancement features larger pockets in the double-screw as the dough travels through it. Their greater size means the dough moves at slower speeds while delivering the same output. “This results in less work on the dough and less wear and tear on the machinery,” McIsaac says.
Dividers from WP Kemper, WP, WP Haton and Winkler feature precise weight accuracy, and specifically the WP Kemper Softstar features a specially designed mouthpiece and ability to stop the measuring drum during the dividing process to maintain precision. These divider brands also use servo-driven technology to adjust machine operation to dough characteristics.
Instead of over-correcting to avoid a regulatory issue, a more accurate divider can provide bakers with a properly weighed product every time.
“When a line is dialed in to a specific weight, the settings of proofing, baking, cooling, slicing and bagging are all dependent on having a uniform size and shape of product,” said Bruce Campbell, vice president for AMF Bakery Systems.