Extending the life of your bread pans


Despite having to turn each Rand around twice before spending it, the local bread industry is faced by an almost insatiable demand for bread. This underlines the huge volumes of bread pans being demanded and supplied daily.


Industrial bread pan customers are very demanding. They want specific goods, superior quality, short lead times – and they want it all at the cheapest possible price!

The market sees a constant move toward finding quicker ways of changing over, increasing production and integrating communication with the plant and other equipment.

Three of the most classic baker worries in this environment include reducing noise, effecting gentler handling and extending pan life. Labour requirements and saving floor space have just recently been added.

New technology can always be employed to achieve a quieter, more efficient and operator friendly pan handling environment. The advent of robots to production lines not only increases efficiency, reduces labour and uses less floor space, but robots are programmable and can pick up various pan types without any need for changeover.

Robots handle hot loads and rapid cycle times with ease and offer freely programmable solutions, which can seamlessly adapt to changing production line conditions. This has made robots particularly suitable to automate manual handling applications, such as bread pan handling, lidding and de-lidding, de-panning and palletising.

The ever-growing demand for bread has related a move toward use of larger baking trays which, in addition to having to be handled hot, are also becoming too heavy for manual handling within the rapid cycle time requirements of a modern bakery.


Apart from the obvious labour saving component, robots also add unique on-board intelligence and decision making to the process – such as rejecting damaged trays and partially filled baking pans.
Robotics provides cost effective, high speed, high accuracy, and automated solutions.

Some advantages that robots bring to bakery automation applications include:

• Bread pan handling involves the movement of particularly hot and heavy 10 and 12-strap baking trays into and out of storage. Typically the entire stock of pans is routed to a “pan store” at the end of each production cycle or run out.

Handling damage incurred due to pans being “thrown around” is a big problem leading to short pan life and poor product quality as dents on the pans also translate to dents in the product. Typical pan life under manual handling is about one year, whereas bakeries using robots to handle pans report up to between a six and eight years of pan life – relating to a significant cost consideration.

Because of the high accuracy and repeatability of robotics and the manner in which they are employed, pan- and lid life is extended due to less mechanical damage to these components.

Robots can also stack the pans neater and far higher than any man, resulting in significant floor space saving. Neatly stacked pans also offer improvements in hygiene.

Sensors within the gripper or pan pick up device can also identify non-empty pans, where a loaf may have failed to eject or has only been partially removed, and re-route that pan for rework.

• Lidding and de-lidding involve the placement and removal of hot baking tray lids into and out of storage. It also entails the continuous recycling of lids during production. Improperly placed or absent lids can lead to a defective product as well line jamb-ups in following processes.

Conventional magnetic de-lidders frequently suffer jamb-ups whilst “dragging” the lid. The power and inactivity of the line leads to bent and folded pan lids. The continuous perfect vertical lift of a robot (even if performed form a moving line to which it is “slaved”) does not permit this to happen. Space saving, damage reduction and hygiene improvements, very much like the pan store application, are thus accomplished.

De-panning includes the removal of baked loaves by conventional de-panners and is generally limited to removing the loaves and placing them on a conveyor.

Product damage can be virtually eliminated by robotic de-panning as these machines lift the bread vertically from the pan as opposed to the cantilever type de-panners that remove the bread at an angle, often resulting in damage to the top of the loaf.

Various loaf forms can also be accommodated (square, round top) without adjustment on instruction from the central controller. Additionally loaves can be routed to conveyors or directly packed into trays where such production option is applicable. Sensors within the gripper can also detect missing loaves and take appropriate action where required.

Further suggestions to address space savings concerns in operations include reconsidering the way that bread pans are stacked and stored. Just turning bread pans upside-down during storage already greatly improves pan sanitation. It minimises the accumulation of debris and maximises cleaning procedures – all compliments of the forces of gravity.

Storing pans on their rims affects less pan damage due to the improved pan weight distribution ratio. Pans can also be stacked higher (making better use of available vertical space) without damage to the bottom moulds because of increased weight, and simultaneously freeing up more floor space for other activities.

The introduction of plastic or polypropylene conveyor belting in bread plants can also greatly assist with bringing down noise levels. Belt repair and maintenance is significantly easier, while also contributing to a reduction in pan damage due to less wear and tear of metal falling upon metal.

There is quite an array of different requirements and preferences in specifying bread pan sets, but the bread-and-butter of small to medium bakeries have always been the more traditional form of pan of folded pans strapped into sets of three, four and five. Today much larger pan sets of up to 10 and 12 are used to maximise production efficiency in plant baking where more sophisticated and automated handling equipment is the order of the day.

“The challenge is to strike the right balance between the strength and weight of the pan supplied. Bread pan construction methods tend to differ according to the requirements and budget of the customer and pans can be of welded end, folded or drawn construction.

Welded end pans are best suited to where price is a major consideration. Less metal is used in its construction. Folded pans, on the other hand, are available in a range of sizes and don’t require specific tooling per size.

The drawn pan is a robust and hygienic solution and is formed without any joints. It uses thicker material than its folded pan counterparts and is particularly popular in larger plant bakeries. As the tooling used is specific to a pan size there has to be sufficient volume to make this a viable option.

Most local bread pans are made from aluminised steel – a flat carbon steel coated pan with an aluminium silicone alloy that offers excellent resistance to corrosion and chemical attack and does not lose its properties when exposed to higher temperatures.

Bread pans can also be used without any coating provided that they are correctly “baked in” before general use. However, the majority of pans have a silicone coating applied these days – formulated to give superior release properties.

As in all manufacturing one of the greatest challenges seems to be the escalating costs in a price sensitive market.















Thermaspray is the only licensed applicator of Chemours Teflon™ Industrial Bakeware Coatings in Southern Africa. Based in Thermaspray’s 2200m², ISO 9001 Quality Managed facility in Olifantsfontein, Midrand.

Thermaspray has the expertise to specify the most appropriate and durable non-stick coating for store or plant bakery operations, in terms of the ingredients, the baking processes and the size and shape of the finished product.

Teflon™ coatings cater for different baking applications from deep drawn to flat trays, for example, bread loaves, buns, baguettes and english muffins, to name a few.

Why Teflon™?
The release qualities of Teflon™ coated bakeware increases the quality of the final product, the cleanliness of the bakery as a whole and production efficiency. It also saves time on de-panning and produces less waste from poor release. Saving bakeries money on the elimination of release agents, expensive cleaning chemicals, baking paper and maintenance cost on bakeware and ovens.

Teflon Coating Services:
Teflon™ coatings can be applied to both new and used bakeware. Refurbishment and recoating services for used bakeware include the removal of previous coating or grease from release agents, repair of mechanical damage and recoating with Teflon™.

Teflon™ will fundamentally change your baking experience – increasing your baking cycles from 5 cycles for oils, 500 cycles with silicones, to as many as 4000 cycles with a Teflon™ coating.


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