Out of sight and out of mind. This often becomes a problem with blast freezers because the spiral system operates with the doors closed and no one checks it except for an occasional maintenance inspection once a day or a scheduled deep cleaning downtime every week or two.
Or it could be the bakery’s trusty tunnel freezer that gets overlooked amid the hustle and bustle of the produce and packaging departments.
With ever-changing operating costs, bakers are re-examining every system, including the freezer, but this closer examination involves much more than simply controlling overhead costs to remain competitive in the marketplace.
“One trend is maximizing production,” noted Dan Morgan, director, food and beverage markets, Messer. “Everyone seems to be looking at expansion. Saving labor is another topic, especially with the limited supply of labor for plant staff and higher wages.”
Saving energy is another way to shore up a company’s sagging bottom line, and there are several ways to get there. In most cases, the road map is determined by the market price, local regulations and the availability of the energy source.
“For cryogenic nitrogen, electrical energy is a production resource, so liquid nitrogen acts as an energy carrier,” Mr Morgan said. “If you switch to cryogenics or increase your production capacity with cryogenics, you can avoid having to buy additional electricity because of the energy contained in liquid nitrogen.”
To save energy and increase the throughput of an existing line, Mr. Morgan also proposed cryo-assistance to existing mechanical blast freezers that use a large amount of electricity. This is where nitrogen-cooled cryogenic equipment is placed in front of a mechanical freezer to increase production volume without requiring additional electrical load.
Yet another option involves switching to a continuous process where a food manufacturing facility freezes baked goods or pizzas and, after packaging, loads the palletized products directly into trucks. Bypassing the freezer, Mr. Morgan said, improves plant efficiency and reduces balance sheet inventory.
“It’s more than just-in-time production,” he explained. “It gets their product off the production line to customers as quickly as possible.”
Mr. Morgan suggested another money-saving idea. Bakeries can also convert their carbon dioxide cooling systems to liquid nitrogen refrigerants. As a byproduct of industrial processes, carbon dioxide has suffered from various supply shortages and has caused operational disruptions at several bakeries over the past year. Liquid nitrogen is a major product produced from air and is therefore readily available.
Instead of heating up because of rising energy costs, bakers can relax by using a variety of best practices and strategic investments.
“In the short term, a good point to start looking at is the industrial process that’s being implemented,” said Nicola Menardo, president of TP Food Group North America, the U.S. division of TP Food Group. “Optimizing processes to prevent voids in production, striving for machine efficiency and preventing unnecessary temperature fluctuations in those machines that operate at low temperatures can be a good tactical approach.”
Additionally, bakers can explore the viability of switching to those freezing systems that reduce energy consumption.
“A spiral freezer can offer many ways to reduce energy needs,” added Mr. Menardo. “Optimized airflow, lower inertia of moving parts, smaller footprints and improved heat exchanger designs are some examples of design features that can help protect bakers from the volatility of energy prices.”
Additionally, Mr. Menardo recommended that bakeries integrate digital systems that collect data on freezer performance and energy consumption and share it with OEMs to maintain high levels of efficiency for industrial freezer operations.
Using digital evaluation technology, Messer recently updated the design of its cryogenic spiral freezer. The modulating cryogenic control provides a precise flow rate to match the heat input to the coil system, while adjusting the vaper exhaust to mitigate the entry of outside air into the freezer.
Mr Morgan said the cryogenic spiral freezer has fewer mechanical components which simplifies cleaning and routine maintenance and can increase production line capacity in existing bakeries by reducing scheduled downtime.
“This device can be more efficient and achieve higher performance in the same footprint,” he said. “Its hygienic design is easy to clean, so you can also save more money on sanitation work.”
When it comes to freezing, bakers can find a number of great ways to cut costs through various energy-efficient programs. They just need to keep their eyes open for options to improve their operations, even if those options aren’t always clearly visible.
This article is excerpted from the September 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire cooling and freezing feature, click here.