Many food and beverage manufacturers have been historically reticent to adopt automated solutions for various reasons. But a combination of lower entry costs and emergent technologies has recently shifted the industry’s outlook on this topic. At the moment, organizations across multiple sectors find themselves faced with no other option than to automate their operations, and it’s only a matter of when.
At some point, while some companies can still get by on their manual processes, your small to medium-sized food production business will have to start implementing automated software to remain competitive. With more and more food and beverage manufacturing companies undergoing comprehensive digital transformation initiatives and the labor shortages continue, there is no better time to start automating your independent artisanal bakery than now.
The artisan market has grown substantially in recent years, yet it’s one of the last niches in the bakery and snack industry to automate. In the list we’ve compiled below, we take a look at the six key benefits of automating your artisanal bakery processing lines.
1. Strict quality control
Your valued customers return to your brand because they’ve come to expect the same baked goods every time. In the food and beverage manufacturing industry, product consistency is crucial for establishing recurrent business and a strict regulatory environment means you can’t risk having one of your items falling out of spec on your bakery lines.
Bread products that are undercooked and improperly manufactured or stored only invite suspicion and distrust among consumers. Research has shown that artisanal bread customers are highly discerning. They display a low tolerance for inconsistent products. Industrial automation software ensures that you can handle unexpected increases in customer demand while delivering the same consistent goods that your patrons have come to adore.
2. Better food safety
Cross-contamination in food plants attributable to human operators has been a problem for decades. Businesses that fail to carefully adhere to the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) risk transferring microorganisms and allergens to their baked goods. In fact, cross-contamination is a problem for factors that do follow CGMPs.
Airborne bacteria can attach itself to dust which lands on your manufacturing equipment before eventually finding its way onto your foods. The good news is that automation eliminates most of your problems with human-induced cross-contamination. The required industrial manufacturing equipment is much easier to clean. It fosters a more sanitized environment. Automating your production lines ensures that you’ll avoid issues with recalls and failed regulatory audits.
3. An injury-free workplace
Food production plants and warehouses are notorious for monotonous, repetitive motion tasks that invite workplace injury. Workers are operating heavy machinery and transferring large items by hand to their various destinations within your warehouse. When you eliminate mundane and physically strenuous activities in your warehouse, you can allocate more resources to your initiatives that drive business growth and revenue.
At the same time, after you automate the repetitive manual components in your factory, you’ll drastically reduce the risk of workplace injury and lower operating costs considerably over the long haul. Every time the industry introduces new regulations, it usually entails a hefty investment in operator training and new safety equipment. Automating your production lines will shorten your reaction times because you don’t have to worry as much about getting your employees to speed after adopting new changes.
4. Real-time, end-to-end traceability
Food recalls are on the rise if the last things you want are contaminate or allergen-related illnesses associated with your brand in the news. This is why real-time, end-to-end traceability is so crucial for food and beverage producers. Industrial automation solutions from EZSoft allow you to track and trace all your ingredients and baked items through their entire supply chain cycle.
If you need to pinpoint a contaminated product before it finds retailer shelves, you can find out exactly where the item is and neutralize the issue before it escalates into a more substantial public relations problem. Rehabilitating your brand reputation because of avoidable recall events or contaminated items that fell through the cracks is expensive and can reverse years of hard-earned progress.
5. Increased throughput
Automating your bakery lines always translates to improved operational efficiency and better throughput rates. What’s more, you can achieve this with fewer resources since your automated machinery doesn’t take lunch breaks or go on family vacations. While may have to schedule maintenance downtime here and there, these brief periods out of product to service your equipment pale in comparison to the productivity gains you’ll unlock after replacing your manual procedures with automation.
In addition to the increased output, you’ll have access to the data required to continue scaling and refining your production processes. You can deploy internet of things devices, for instance, to work exclusively with your enterprise resource planning system (ERP) to help you identify production line inefficiencies. This makes it easy to introduce meaningful process improvements you know any decisions make are data-driven, and not speculation.
6. Less materials waste
While easy to overlook the benefits of waste reduction, it’s one key area of focus where automation can help you cut down your operating costs significantly. Supply chain waste in the food industry has always been an issue, and, in many regards, it is considered inherent to food distribution, given the short shelf lives of perishable goods.
Likewise, businesses that lack an ERP management system and struggle with inaccurate inventory management tend to overstock their perishables, yet another factor contributing to excess materials waste. An automated stock management system will ensure your inventory level is always well aligned with the current demand. The added visibility into your supply chain means won’t have to worry about unnecessary stockout events because you weren’t able to evaluate your inventory.
Ready to invest in industrial automation?
Automating your independent artisanal bakery comes with several more advantages not listed here. The bottom line is that ERP systems and other industrial automation solutions will improve your food safety while substantially boosting inventory traceability and operational productivity.
If you are in the process of upgrading your existing technology now or just want to implement an entirely new automated management solution from scratch, consider partnering with EZSoft, a full-service integrator of process control systems in Malvern, PA. Connect with one of our product specialists now by submitting your details online or, for more information, call EZSoft at (484) 568-5040.