In recent months, among the main obstacles to operating a baking facility has been managing profit loss while trying to enhance customer experience and elevate brand perceptions. As this dilemma is ongoing, many bakers aim to develop a long-term cost savings plan that entails a step process of industrial automation solutions.
The baking industry’s history of automation
By definition, an oven is an automated device. It’s, therefore, safe to assume that baking shares a rich history with automation as, indeed, the two go hand-in-hand. Large industrial baking facilities are as old as ancient Egypt itself. Recent excavations near the pyramids in the region show that hundreds of laborers worked expansive oven baking systems that fed the thousands of Egyptians constructing the pyramids at the time.
Today, commercial bakeries the world over have long since turned to high-tech solutions that left most of the main operational facilities almost entirely automated. And while these mammoth outfits have been taking advantage of automated technology for decades, smaller bakeries are pushing to automate at a staggering pace.
Experts at EzSoft, a Pennsylvania-based corporation specializing in Industrial Automation and IT Infrastructure, anticipate the current labor shortage and rising costs of hiring will continue for some time. This is exactly why so many bakeries are consulting with leading automation solution companies like theirs. Most food manufacturing business owners want automation to help cut costs from job site injury claims by eliminating repetitive tasks while increasing revenue through a more refined-looking, consistent-tasting product.
Establishing your industrial automation solutions plan
The first step to developing an automation plan is making a comprehensive assessment of your operational facility and organization as a whole. While there are countless benefits to automating, you should target especially troublesome areas first and identify how automation technology can reconcile those key problems.
If workplace injury has been an especially pressing issue at your facility, you need to identify the production line processes that are contributing to the problem most. Once you’ve exposed the areas in need of emendation, the next step is to seek out equipment and automated systems to supplant these high-stress manual processes.
For most bakers, ingredient control is of utmost importance. Therefore, as you develop your automation plan, you must take inventory of the procedures along the production line that are the most inconsistent. Once you’ve highlighted those touchpoints, you can start searching for machinery that can effectively address the problematic portioning steps, thereby troubleshooting them with automated devices. As you delve deeper into the technology, you’ll almost invariably discover that the equipment improves more than just that one problem area.
The primary draw to automation offers a solution that allows operational facilities to reduce previously fixed labor costs while simultaneously increasing production. Determining whether or not a machine can actually achieve labor savings requires a careful and sometimes complex analysis unique to each industrial baking facility. In some cases, the machinery may not result directly in a reduced labor pool but will permit the facility to take on more orders. In this scenario, you’ll want to ensure that taking on more business is feasible before you proceed to invest in the upgrade.
Most automation in baking orientates toward increasing production. This is where bakeries find the best ROI concerning automating production equipment. In other terms, the machines are not always labor reducing, but they allow you to produce 10 times more products with your existing staff. Assume, for example, you’re able to produce 5000 more pies a day in an eight-hour day at $6.00 per pie with your current employees after automating. With a constant of 250 working days in a year, that’s a $7,500,000 annual increase in profits.
Balancing your facility
While it’s true in the example above that some equipment might increase a single baker’s efficiency by 10 times, to see those profits, other stages along the production line must similarly keep pace. Baking is a batch-orientated process, with baking times varying by product, so further upgrades are almost always required to avoid stop and start line delays associated with alternating batch times.
The concept behind a balanced industrial baking operation is not to ensure each process has the same capacity as the other. A plant’s capacity for mixing will be greater than its finishing or decorating capacity in most cases. Likewise, bakers usually want the oven occupied with their products which is why they tend to build in protective mixing capacity to their automation upgrade strategy.
Staggering your automation plan
Automation tends to be installed in stages to mitigate risk and spread it out over time. The first stage of automating necessitates single-purpose machines that depend upon your current staff as operators. These technologies improve their productivity and allow for an increased capacity for accepting a greater number of orders. The upgrades often lower employee physical stress by reducing repetitive motion as well. Consequently, the plant stands as less exposed to potential claims from onsite injuries.
As the automation equipment is staged-up to the highest level, the entire facility becomes less dependent upon employees and more reliant upon automated processes that perform multiple functions and require only a select few technical staff to operate. A system like this can be programmed to run several different recipes within a single product category while completing multiple process steps.
Once you’re set on automating your industrial baking operation, you should place careful consideration toward selecting the best vendor to help guide your journey. EzSoft, just northwest of Philadelphia, is a leading full-service Systems Integrator of Process Control Systems built upon decades of proven experience.
As you start the process of automating your bakery’s manufacturing execution systems, take a moment to fill out EzSoft’s customer inquiry form or call them today at (484) 568-5040 for a free consultation to establish how they can streamline the seamless integration of your automation upgrades.