Bakery and Food Automation is the New Norm

Whether it’s the face mask you had to put on today, or the electronic device you’re reading this on, it’s likely that many of the products you’re using were created with the help of automation. Even though automation has become such an integral part of our lives, there is still some reluctance in certain industries to adopt this kind of technology. While food and baking manufacturers can be typically slower to adopt to new technologies in automation compared to other manufacturing industries, it’s important to continually review these advances in automation and the benefits that they can offer.

If you’re concerned, curious or on the fence about whether automation is a worthwhile investment, here are 6 reasons why you should integrate automation into your bakery.Robotic automated cookie production systems

1) Automation improves productivity / throughput
This is one of the most fundamental benefits of automation, and it’s usually the top reason why companies seek to automate their production lines. This key benefit is easily measured and helps you keep up with product demands without having to manage staffing fluctuations throughout the year — typically, automation works at a faster and more consistent rate than human workers. Furthermore, equipment doesn’t need a lunch break, doesn’t show up late for work, does not call in sick and always works overtime.

2) Automation can improve product quality and consistency
Automation is not only about increasing volume. When manually producing baked goods, variations among your products can pop up, such as bread loaves being molded inconsistently, or varying weights and portions with sauce, batter, icing and inclusions. With the help of automation, bakeries can improve accuracy during the production process, thus improving product quality and consistency. Improving product quality also has the bonus of customer retention; customers will continue purchasing your product if they know they are buying the same consistent product that they’ve grown to love.

3) Automation can make your bakery safer
Automation can make your bakery a safer place in more ways than one. Firstly, automation can improve food safety; people are a major cause of cross-contamination in food processing plants, and can easily transfer microorganisms and allergens onto your products. With automation, you can remove this potential problem from the equation entirely.
In addition to food safety, automation can help keep workers safe too. Working in a bakery typically involves a lot of heavy lifting and repetitive motions (e.g., decorating, loading trays, etc.), which can make employees susceptible to repetitive strain injury. Automation can help by taking over the difficult and repetitive tasks in your bakery, thus resulting in less ergonomic injuries. This becomes a win-win situation, because employees will feel more comfortable while they work, and you no longer have to suffer any productivity losses from workers becoming injured.

4) Automation helps with fluctuating labor costs and labor shortages
Automation is an investment, and the ROI can be incredible. If you’ve been in the bakery industry, you’ve likely experienced the struggle of finding labor. In fact, labor shortages in the food industry has been running rampant for years, and according to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, approximately 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will be left unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Another 2016 study by the American Bakers Association and the American Society of Baking found that “the baking industry is deficient in employees in all areas of production with leadership skills, problem solving and decision-making skills, as well as baking-industry specific technical skills”. Clearly, finding labor can be one of the most difficult parts of keeping a bakery running. And even when you do, it’s common for bakery work to be seasonal, meaning that you would have to spend time and money to train new employees every year. With the help of automation to fill the gaps in your production line, you can reduce your labor requirements and save on HR costs in the long run. After all, you never have to worry about paying overtime or severance costs for a machine.

5) Automation can be integrated at your own pace… grow as you grow
As the old saying goes, there can always be too much of a good thing, and automation is no exception. Fortunately, automation can be introduced in stages, meaning that you can install automation that matches your needs, while still staying within your comfort zone. In fact, if you have little experience with bakery automation, going straight to a full line automation system may not be the best solution for you. Rather than immediately installing an automation system that performs multiple processes simultaneously, it may be better to first integrate a smaller scale automation solution that handles a single aspect of production. This way, you can get a better understanding of how automation can improve your production process, and you can see which other processes may be optimal for future automation. Doing this will also allow you to observe how automation impacts your bakery’s culture, which can highly influence how your business grows.

6) Automation doesn’t need to take away the artisan touch
It’s a common belief that artisan products can’t coexist with automation, but with today’s technology, there’s no need for these to be mutually exclusive anymore. As mentioned in the previous point, automation can come in many different levels and forms, meaning that you can still keep a personal touch on the most important parts of your product. At the end of the day, it’s all about balance, and by implementing an appropriate level of automation to lend you a hand in the kitchen, you can scale up your production, while maintaining your signature artisan charm.

Conclusion
Overall, automation can provide many benefits to bakeries, such as improved productivity, more consistent product quality, increased workplace safety, and reduced labor costs. Not only that, automation can be integrated at different levels to best match your needs, all while maintaining the artisan touch that many bakers strive to preserve. If you’d like to see some examples of bakery automation in action, please visit our video page.
If you’re in need of a robotics integrator, Apex Motion Control has an in-house expert available to talk about your business needs. With Apex’s help, you can discover an automation solution that works best for you, such as our Baker-Bot, to improve productivity and food safety. Contact our cobot experts today at info@apexmotion.com.

Sources:
• https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/manufacturing/articles/future-of-manufacturing-skills-gap-study.html
• https://asbe.org/workforce-gap-study/
• https://www.bakingbusiness.com/articles/49028-with-automated-equipment-artisan-bakers-can-scale-up-without-selling-out
• https://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2020/automation-makes-inroads-into-baking/
• https://www.naegele-inc.com/2019/05/08/benefits-automation-bakery-processing/
• http://www.thebakerynetwork.com/how-develop-automation-plan-your-bakery

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