While demand for baked goods is higher than ever, many bakery owners are still perplexed upon deciding whether or not it’s a good time to automate their production lines. Most bread and snack manufacturers are familiar with the advantages industrial automation solutions can bring. Yet, they remain unclear on how to identify the critical breaking point where making this change makes the most economic sense.
If you’re wondering whether or not now is the right time to invest in new industrial automation equipment, you’re surely not alone. With demand levels for breads, snacks, and specialty baked goods at an all-time high, it’s still a difficult decision. That’s why it makes sense to take a closer look at automating and determine if a full or partial solution will work for your particular application.
While there is no singular approach to determining when to automate an industrial bakery, there are a few reliable signs to be aware of that can tell you that it is time. Now, let’s explore a few industry rules of thumb that can help guide you as to whether or not it’s a good idea to pursue a full or partial automation initiative for your business.
When to consider automating your bakery manufacturing facility
If you’ve been operating a bakery for any considerable length of time, you likely already know that the most common reason for automation is to boost production capacity to meet an increase in demand. Depending on the goods you produce, you’ll eventually find your business reaching a critical breaking point from which you can no longer support current demand levels without automating your production lines.
Aside from production capacity, available labor resources also play a substantial role in establishing your automation objectives. The bakery industry was facing workforce shortages well before the global health crisis of 2020, and this same predicament continues to challenge bakery owners today. The pandemic only exacerbated labor constraints across several areas of the food and beverage manufacturing sector, making it difficult for bakeries to keep pace with escalating demands.
While automation does resolve the many problems associated with a short labor supply and increased demand, bakeries specializing in artisanal products have been reticent to adopt industrial automation solutions over quality concerns. Bakers who fall under this category aren’t aware the latest modern automated bakery equipment allows them to produce artisan-like goods that are virtually indistinguishable from handmade products.
To offer an example, the latest industrial technologies are engineered to enable bread production lines that gently process high-hydrogen doughs without compromising exterior crusts and breadcrumb structures. The effect is a product that’s essentially identical to the many high-demand classical artisanal breads produced under traditional manual processes.
Furthermore, automation helps bakers that struggle with accuracy and consistency. The automated machinery deploys guillotine cutters, check-weighers, and other precision equipment to render goods that always weigh the same, even if the final outcomes differ in size.
Choosing between partially automated and semi-automated lines
Many bakery owners remain under the impression that their production lines must be fully automated or not automated at all. While even some ingredients may need to be loaded manually on an automated line (namely micron ingredients like leaveners) you still have the option of partially automating your lines as you work your way up to a fully automated facility.
Bakeries that must necessarily facilitate larger production capacities benefit from fully automated production lines the most. If your bakery processes 2000 lbs of dough per hour or cake lines greater than 1200 units per hour, you’ll almost always need a fully automated solution for these applications.
Bakers that don’t need to meet as much demand can still adopt industrial automation solutions by starting with a semi-automated process and working their way up. The primary advantage of a partially automated manufacturing solution is that it is highly customizable. You’re able to design semi-automated systems according to your precise needs while addressing the most glaring problems at your facility first.
If your bakery struggles with ingredients waste, or you discover yourself discarding too many products because of inconsistent outcomes, then you can begin by implementing an automated dough divider as a solution. Bakeries that are short-staffed and forced to operate with limited labor resources can always get started by automating their rack loading, unloading, and depanning processes. This approach allows you to commit more of your resources to the procedures that require human intervention to produce the desired outcomes.
Partial automation is a reliable strategy for bakers who are just beginning to automate their production lines. Automating any manufacturing system is a journey that starts with your biggest pain points. Once you start clearing the bottlenecks within your bakery lines and your product increases, you can move on to another obstacle and keep repeating this until you’re fully automated.
Getting started with automation
As start the endeavor into automating your bakery’s manufacturing lines, it’s always recommended that you always demo the products and equipment you’re interested in whenever possible. This is especially true if managing complex applications that are particularly challenging and have been hampering your productivity.
If, for instance, you’re dealing with high-hydration breads to create artisanal products or gluten-free breads, you’ll want to ensure the equipment you buy is suitable for those applications by testing it first.
Sourcing top industrial automation companies near me
EZSoft is a preeminent, full-service integrator of process control systems. We specialize in helping commercial bakeries boost production capacity with industrial automation software. Our team of automation experts develops software that controls equipment used in modern bakeries and the chemical processing industries.
EZSoft assists businesses like yours in developing a long-term automation strategy that addresses the varying and complex needs of their unique production applications. Connect with a bakery automation specialist online today by completing a request for contact form. Or, for more information on getting started with full or partial automation, call us now at (484) 568-5040.