HQ Visit: Mecatherm Introduces New Oven Concept and Design

French specialist Mecatherm introduced a new, smart oven, a modular handling system, and a new dividing machine, in the press day held July 3 at the company’s headquarters in Barembach, France.

The full-day event aimed to offer a glimpse into “how everybody is living innovation throughout the company,” as CEO Olivier Sergent (pictured: left) said in his welcoming message, and introduce the global specialist’s latest innovations ahead of the iba trade show in September, with a comprehensive guided tour of Mecatherm’s R&D and Demonstration Center. Selected members of the trade press were part of the event, including European Baker & Biscuit. “We want to share this fantastic combination between people and experience,” he added, comparing the company’s experts from all specialties coming together with a Formula 1 team.

The Innovative Oven

The main attraction at the Demonstration Center was the new oven, with a complete redesign inside and out. It answers to a market trend for product innovation and aims to support increasing NPD. As Marie Laisne (pictured: right), the product manager in charge of this new technology, illustrated with Mintel research, while there were 8,000 new products launched every tear in 2012, this number has risen to 13,000 in 2017, a 60% increase – versatility is one of the criteria playing a role in the design of this oven. In addition, it meets industrial trends including the need for 100% productivity, meaning no product loss, and a reduced operation cost.

The concept behind the design of this technology came from Mecatherm’s CEO, we learned, who imagined a big, industrial oven capable to cook all types of products, versatile just like a small oven.

Specifications:

  • Flexibility
    The oven has a modular construction, built in three compact modules (the unit on display and operating at the Center). Each module comes with its own, independent types of heat transfer options. In this way, it allows for flexibility in the heating curve, the product manager explained to us: “The three baking zones allow the baker to optimize temperature in three areas. Each module is 25 sqm, the most compact being 17m long, in total a 250 sqm area of cooking.” The heat transfer options include radiation or convection heating, with the option to have steam in each, which helps with the baking of a very wide range of products.
    “Each module can be set independently, from 100% convection to any needed ratios, between convection and radiation heating,” she explained.
    There are six different baking modes available on each zone of the oven, each benefiting from a dedicated steam injection system. These multiple heat transfer modes allow bakers to establish their own tailor-made baking curve, for unique and differentiating products.
    The oven also offers efficiency with a fast changeover time. For this, the R&D teams have worked on the oven’s reactivity in order for its temperature to adapt very rapidly and precisely. The use of a specially created highly modulating burner, as well as the rate of air renewal being extremely high, allow rapid raises and drops in temperature.
  • Precision
    The R&D team designed the oven based on simulation models for computer assistance flow, which allowed them to design the airflow circuits to have an extremely homogenous flow throughout the oven’s width. In addition, the oven adapts to the number of products inside and allows quick changes from one product to the next, while using 10-20% less energy. We were able to observe this during a demonstration, with the baking of rustic buns (with a thin crust) and madeleines. The buns were baked in 14 minutes, at 260˚C in the first module, which used steam, then 240˚C in the next two modules. The oven also benefits from a rejected stack-measuring device, in order to pilot its opening and closing. This instrumentation permits a precise management of the oven, especially the humidity, which is particularly useful for baking crusty products. The madeleines’ total baking time was 11min 30’’, starting at 230˚C in the first zone, respectively 210˚C and 185˚C in the following two, to ensure consistent baking of the entire product. The precision of the new oven ensures high quality, uniform products, even with delicate products while ensuring a no loss of energy.
    The reactivity of the heating modules given by a powerful turbine which continuously renews the baking chamber’s air, and by a modulating burner, capable of adapting its operating regime instantly, and prevents the oven from an overheating effect (called “flash heat”). This also means the oven can instantly adapt to the product load to ensure perfect baking, even in case of partial loading.
  • Efficiency 
    During a changeover, the new settings are automatically and rapidly implemented, by selecting the new recipe on the interface. Thanks to the oven’s high reactivity, and the controlling program’s intelligence, temperature changes are done very fast: it takes only 20 minutes to gain 100°C and 30 minutes to lose 100°C. In addition, “The oven can be equipped with curtains between baking areas, to accommodate baking of different types of products,” Laisne explained to The oven is easy to monitor, she demonstrated, with its automatic air balance. The steam is controlled with the help of measuring sensors inside the chimney, which also have steam regulators. A camera view is also available at the command screen.”
    The entrance and exit points are confined, for energy loss.
    In addition, “The modern design of the oven is not just aesthetic, but it also has functional roles, as it is built to improve accessibility for technicians: it is easy to open and to access the top,” added the product manager.

A New Handling System

The company’s communication and project development manager, Ophélie Caron, introduced the new modular conveyance system that ensures products are delicately handled. To develop the new equipment, the R&D team first analyzed existing similar technology, and identified a need for product quality, suitability according to the manufacturer specifications and a reduced cost of ownership, she summarized. “The new system is consistent, universal, and easy to use,” she explained.

The trays are on a continuous loop, which means a homogenous transport in every process step, as we could see during the demonstration. No shocks affect the product, so there is no danger that it could collapse, and there is no friction, which ensures food safety, as there is no product contamination. The elimination of all impact and friction guarantees uniform and gentle handling during all processing stages.

The equipment can be used for all processing steps, for proofers, coolers, to freezers, and stackers, she illustrated. “It is very adaptable to all types of supports, including alveolus trays, flat trays, printed trays, straps, peel boards, grids, and more,” she said. The size is very adaptable too, with a capacity ranging from 16 to 104 trays/module. The maximum speed of the handling equipment is 540 trays/hour, on average 10 minutes per module.

The ease in utilization is ensured by an intuitive interface and accessibility to all features. This makes it easy to clean, and it avoids product retention (the hygienic design is EHEDG approved). There is little maintenance necessary.

Operators can also reduce or increase the time spent in the module according to product type. This time can also be adapted by temporarily suspending one or various units in the processing stage. 

Each unit works autonomously, and it is possible to bypass one of them, even if it is in the middle of the chain, without interrupting processing. Using this bypass function, the trays will simply travel through the lower part on the conveyor belt and move on to the next unit. Additionally, the excess trays in the line can be stored inside the stopped unit.

Divider Innovation

The new divider answers to a core market trend, that for premiumization. “Consumers want a rust aspect, a tasty product, and freshness at purchasing time as well as in time. The product must have a crispy crust and a fresh crumb,” said Raymond Nogael (pictured: bottom), the group director of marketing and business development.

Existing industrial technologies are in two categories: volumetric dividers and sheeting make-up lines.

Mecatherm analyzed the pros and cons of each to bring the best of both together in the new equipment. Volumetric dividers give very precise weight and shape, with no product loss, he told us. It gently handles the product, so elasticity is maintained, while molding ensures the volume and thin crust. The downside is that high hydration cannot be achieved, and there are many wearing parts, due to friction and oil, Nogael added. On the other hand, sheeting make-up lines can accommodate hydrated and fermented dough because the product is not molded, he explained. However, precision is lost (10-15% of the product is reused with a loss in quality; the size of the equipment is an impediment, and it also uses a high amount of flour, which results in a very thick crust.

The new divider is a high-precision machine (+/- 2% standard deviation), with a product range of up to 900gr, and capacity of up to 4,000 baguettes/hour. Its main advantages are benefits in product quality, authenticity and diversity, the specialist told us, with the added value of a low cost of ownership. The machine’s working principle comprises the stages: cutting, dough sheet formation, cutting the dough, and final calibration.

The “savoir-faire” had an important part to play in the design of this divider, contributing to features for product authenticity, diversity, and quality, we learned. “Dough hydrated up to 80% can be processed, as well as dough with bulk fermentation. There is no re-work necessary and no impact on the recipes; the dough is both stress-free and stretch-free,” Nogael told us. A laser detector “sees” where to cut the product, and a mobile guillotine ensures cutting is made in equal pieces. The simplified monitoring makes the machine easy to use, with a reduced number of settings and a low amount of flouring and oil necessary. “It means no shocks, no friction to the product and no wearing component for the equipment,” with a safe design, he explained.

Only 7m long, the new divider is a retrofittable solution, which can be installed in any production line in place of a volumetric divider or laminating divider. It has a smaller footprint than a laminating divider, meaning that the industrial bakery can install it on its production line, whatever type of first-generation divider their equipment currently includes. Mecatherm is able to provide a turnkey solution to customers wishing to upgrade their production tool to shift production towards traditional baguettes.

Mecatherm’s CEO summarized the day’s innovations presented, by putting them into perspective: “The world is changing fast. The price/quality ratio is traditionally the challenge for manufacturers, with the addition of a new parameter now: diversity. We can find variety in every aspect of our life today. A wide range of products is a need. This new challenge is a priority for our customers. As we are industrial line manufactures, we are architects; it was up to us to offer solutions across the production line. We bring some disruptive innovations, from kneading to packaging,” Sergent concluded.

All the new launches will be presented at iba trade fair, in Munich this September.

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