Process and Control Today | Increased dosing accuracy improves product quality for the bakery

An industrial bakery increased product quality and reduced production costs after installing high-precision ball valves. Bürkert’s high-speed ball valves and actuators have increased the precision of flow control and the repeatability of the ingredient dispensing process. Streamlined ingredient control has increased the value the bakery provides to retailers and consumers while improving bakery efficiency.

At a large industrial bakery in the UK producing a wide variety of products, the plant’s liquid enhancement system requires precise dosages of additives in dough mixes. These additives are essential to the baking process and impact attributes such as flavor and shelf life. Liquid additives include water, vinegar, and oil, as well as ingredients suspended in liquid solutions, such as yeast.

Accurate dosing is a vital aspect of industrial cooking, and inaccurate ingredient levels can affect product quality, including flavor, shape, and shelf life. Also, this reduces efficiency with a higher level of inferior product and waste. The unnecessary addition of expensive ingredients also increases the cost of production.

Inaccurate dosing affects quality

The bakery works with batches of 500 kg of dough, adding quantities of ingredients of only 100 g. As a result, an error of just 3-4 g can significantly affect the final product. The bakery was equipped with an automated system, but it provided insufficient accuracy. The primary cause was angle seat valves in the system that generated excessive dispense volume, as well as variability, creating inconsistent dispensing. As a result, the bakery and its engineering partner turned to Bürkert to upgrade the valve system to ensure optimal precision.

The bakery’s engineering team integrated their PLC-based system with a set of Bürkert electromotive ball valves with high-speed actuators in ½” and 1” dimensions. Various spring combinations were tested with the quick-acting and quick-closing valves before the optimum closing rate was achieved.

Ball valves provide improved accuracy and repeatability

The result was vastly improved flow regulation, improving the speed, accuracy and consistency of dosing control. For the bakery, this meant an increase in product quality and a reduction in production costs.

“The integration of our ball valves not only provided greater precision in dosing control, but also provided greater consistency in flow rates,” says Kieran Bennett, Industry Account Manager, Food & Bev. Burkert. “As a result of the improvement in product quality and the production process itself, the bakery has now implemented the system in broader dispensing applications throughout its plant.”

High speed valve control

The main challenge in establishing dosing accuracy came from the type of valves originally installed. Angle seat valves were previously specified, but did not provide fast or consistent enough closure rates to ensure flow control accuracy.

The valve seats had also deteriorated over time and changed shape, which meant an inconsistent flow rate that was exacerbated under high-flow conditions. An earlier attempt by the plant’s engineering team to improve accuracy by installing stroke limiters to restrict valve port sizes was insufficient to resolve the issue.

Analyzing the situation, Bürkert realized that the integration of a ball valve and actuator combination would achieve a significant increase in dosing accuracy. The quick-closing action of the valve could provide high-speed control over the allocation during flight, with accuracy rates less than +/- 1g from a 100g ingredient dose.

Repeatable performance with reliable valve operation

The predictability of the valve closure rate is an important factor for dosing consistency, but it had to be combined with an impermeable barrier. Leakage when the valve is closed also affects dosing accuracy. However, Bürkert’s ball valves were also specified as they provide optimum sealing, preventing any penetration even against the most aggressive solutions.

A secondary benefit of the fast valve closure rates is that if the system is shut down due to unexpected power loss, the closure rate is extremely fast. This secures the media and prevents unwanted overflow.

Inside the bakery, orifice plates were also installed to restrict flow to specific areas. These restrictors help control accuracy, stabilizing flow and reducing variation. Combined with the new valves, the hammer effect has also been eliminated, contributing to a robust and reliable installation.

“With highly durable stainless steel bodies and seals, the bakery can confidently expect a typical life of 10 years or more from Bürkert ball valves,” says Kieran.

Crucially for the bakery, high-precision valve control has not only reduced the cost of production, but also optimized product quality. This has increased value for supermarkets and retailers and ultimately improved consumer satisfaction.

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