Technology is changing rapidly, but what is changing is the speed at which bakeries are adapting to it out of necessity to keep their operations running efficiently and at the highest possible capacity.
This is especially the case when it comes to automating the topping, decorating and frosting of buns, desserts and other eye-catching products.
“As labor continues to become scarce, the baking industry is developing more autonomous systems and machines to better deliver product quality and consistency with reduced risk and less margin for error. , as smart appliances use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to continuously improve the,” observed Hans Besems, Executive Product Manager, AMF Tromp, a brand of AMF Bakery Systems.
“Humans make emotional and reactive decisions,” he added. “Machines do everything based on data, even integrating preventive measures. We believe that these solutions are complementary to human operators.
Often, it only takes one or two systems to replicate decorating a cake with an artistic dollop or an exquisite swirl of icing on a high-volume production line.
Other times, bakeries use automation to reduce unnecessary waste of expensive toppings.
“Integrated vision tracking with servo drives and improved processor speeds brings this entire category to previously unimaginable precision,” said Jerry Murphy, vice president of sales, Gemini Bakery Equipment. “From applying pizza sauce to decorating donuts, the limits are only defined by creativity.”
PLC controls, intelligent software, and industrial-grade sensors combine to accurately add toppings or finish baked goods on high-speed or quick-change lines.
“Digital imaging technology is used with AI and machine learning algorithms to make the system smarter and more efficient than today’s machines in factories,” Besems explained. “Added value is created because digital images can also be used for quality control and benchmarking or quality control across shifts. This makes it easier to detect, find, track and trace quality issues without losing entire product runs, resulting in less waste.
He added that it only takes a few days to integrate systems like AMF’s smart applicator onto production lines, but it takes a little longer for the machine to “learn” to target quantity. desired toppings on a specific flatbread crust or base.
“Sometimes the algorithm requires training, which we can prepare with the client and the operators,” Besems said. “So the specs, defaults, and products are known, and the machine learning can do its job.”
For control and efficiency, many companies have turned to phones and touch pads, while simplified or standardized software makes it easier to add finishing systems to existing lines.
“New developments include control from smartphones, as well as easy integration with other equipment vendors and compatibility with Ethernet protocols that allow integration with centralized IT systems,” said Mauricio Nahum, Head of applications for Unifiller Systems.
However, most new systems require training, especially in bakeries that are early or in the middle of their automation processes.
“Our technician will help program the recipes into the system and train the customer on how to store the recipes or how to switch between products at the push of a button,” he said. “We offer quick change of parts for customers who have a lot of different products.”
While many businesses are more actively investigating every automation opportunity these days, what about bakers who continue to invest? Is the technology advanced enough that they are considering upgrading their systems from ones they purchased just 10 years ago?
“If you’re happy with your current technology and getting the results you want, there’s really no rush to upgrade your system,” said Jamie Bobyk, marketing manager at Apex Motion Control. “Upgrading, however, can often help you achieve better results than what you are currently experiencing. Labor shortages are not going away. They will only get worse as baby boomers retire and the interests of the next generation shift away from working in a bakery manufacturing plant.
But there’s always the sales pitch that entices bakers to take a second look at the latest technology.
“On that note, if you’re looking to really speed it up, the Deco-Bot is a no-brainer,” Bobyk added. “The Deco-Bot is an all-in-one robotic decorating station capable of precisely decorating cakes, cookies and cupcakes with that homemade look. Write, draw, sprinkle and decorate round or sheet cakes with roses, or finish cupcakes with swirls, rosettes and roses.
For bakers, it comes down to their willingness to adapt to new technologies to determine how competitive they will be in the marketplace and whether they will get to the finish line first for new customers.
This article is an excerpt from the November 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the full Finish/Glaze/Topping article, click here.