For many years bakeries, commissaries and food processing plants have been motivated to upgrade to automated Pan, Rack and Utensil Washing Equipment to reduce the expenses associated with water consumption labor, energy and chemical expense. If those benefits weren’t enough, today’s food safety regulations and increased standards for cleanliness and sanitation make washers a virtual necessity. The question then remains, what style or model would be best suited to match your needs? According to Kevin Lemen, Marketing Manager for Douglas Machines Corp., “The ideal washer depends on the type and quantity of items to be washed, the type of soils to be removed, the desired wash time, heating options, flexibility for future needs, space limitations, and budget considerations.” Since these parameters vary significantly, the Douglas line of automated washing and sanitizing systems contains over forty (40) standard models. Generally, In-store or Retail/Wholesale Bakeries enjoy the flexibility of compact, Cabinet Style Batch Washers and commissaries and food processing operations typically require the increased throughput capacity associated with Continuous Cleaning Tunnel Washers.
Lemen explains, “Batch washers come in a variety of styles and capacities. Lift-door models are the most economical in terms of space. The door of this wash cabinet lifts vertically upward, thereby eliminating any infringement on the space located in front of the machine that may need to be kept clear for traffic. The caveat is that ceiling clearance must be considered with a lift door design. Drop-down or hinged-door models feature doors that create convenient drain tables when the door is opened. This allows the wash rack to be pulled out onto the door for convenient loading/unloading. The area in front of the machine also tends to stay dry since the water from the pans drain onto the table and then back into the machine. The lift-door design generally requires that the operator keep the wash rack inside the machine and, consequently, operate within the cabinet’s “drip zone” for the loading/unloading functions. A compromise in the form of a split-door design is often the best solution. In the split door design, half the door goes vertically upward and half the door folds outward horizontally which shortens the clearance height and reduces the amount of space required in front of the machine for a drain table. Depending upon cabinet dimensions, capacities generally vary from six (6) sheet pans per cycle to thirty-six (36) sheet pans per cycle at approximately ten (10) cycles per hour maximum. Select a larger cabinet if you have cake pans or muffin pans which necessitate a “face down” washing orientation versus standing on edge. This approach increases the cleaning effectiveness for heavily soiled containers while reducing the capacity.”
Typically, batch washers feature a recirculating wash tank and a separate fresh water rinse tank for sanitizing. Wash cycles are selected from a short, medium or long sequence (4, 6 or 8 minutes) depending on soil conditions. As opposed to a dishwasher (40 to 60 minute wash times), batch washers utilize larger water pumps (5 to 15 H.P.), higher operating pressures (40 to 50 P.S.I) and specially designed, rotating spray nozzles. Each wash cycle is followed by a thirty (30) second, 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit sanitizing rinse to provide sanitizing without the use of expensive chemicals. The sanitizing rinse water is recycled by routing it back to the recirculated wash tank. Most manufacturers build their machines with the option of electric, gas or steam heating. Your preference will depend upon available utilities, the cost of utilities in your region combined with the cost of installation. Generally, gas heated machines are more economical to operate but have a higher installation cost due to venting requirements.
If cleaning your bakery racks is also desired, you may upgrade to a Rack, Pan and Utensil Washer. These machines are either used with a ramp or installed in a pit for floor level loading/unloading. Specially designed wash racks to hold your containers or empty storage/oven racks are simply rolled into the cabinet to be washed/sanitized as previously described. Wash Rack capacity, however, increases up to ninety (96) sheet pans per cycle. Lemen notes that “Douglas Machines offers two styles of Rack Washers: a front mounted pump design and a rear mounted pump design. Front mounted designs locate the pump on the front, the rinse tank on the top, the electrical enclosure on the side and a stainless steel skin on the back section. This allows the machine to be placed directly against an existing wall to conserve space. Rear mounted designs locate all of the items on the back of the machine, thus according to National Electric Code (NEC) clearance requirements, the machine must be located 36” to 48” from the back wall. The inherent benefit is that overhead and side clearance issues are minimized. Both styles of machines come in left and right hand door configurations with electric, gas or steam heating. The front mounted versions are also available with a second (rear) door for convenient, pass through operation.
A greater amount of food related product than ever before is being prepared off site in centralized commissaries and shipped to individual store locations. Conveyorized Tunnel Washers, with or without blow-off modules, are best suited for these applications due to the significant volume of containers being washed/sanitized. Containers are transported through the tunnel washer by a belt or chain through specific modules (pre-wash, wash, sanitizing rinse and blow-off) before exiting the machine. Batch washers are generally are a single person operation, but most tunnel washers will require two people for loading and unloading. The majority of these tunnel conveyors are engineered for a specific set of containers and throughput requirements. Tunnel washers typically clean more effectively than batch washers, due to the ability to locate spray nozzles in close proximity to the container and their increased operating pressures. Adjustable hold-downs are supplied to add versatility for different container heights and a variable speed drive is supplied to allow for a range of soil conditions.