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Kennedy's Bakery Production Magazine | May 29, 2020

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The automation bake-off

The automation bake-off

The greater variety of personal requirements, combined with a growing number of consumers, means bakery processes have to become faster and much more adaptable if they are to meet the challenge. Ceyhun Sahin, ABB’s Country Food & Beverages Leader UK, explains why automation is the answer.

Personalised bakery products are in demand; in a survey of 17,000, Puratos’ Taste Tomorrow found that 80% would buy their own designer bread1. Leatherhead Food Research also found that half of 18-24 and 25-34 year olds were interested in apps or websites which suggest recipes based on factors including height, weight, food likes, and health goals2.

Consumers love choice and an opportunity to have their own input on a product. Increasingly consumers want to choose not only what ingredients are used but also where these ingredients are sourced. Meeting these kinds of individual tastes is paramount to success in today’s market.

In practical terms, such variety calls for flexible automation.

Robotic automation can do much to help bakers become flexible and achieve personalised production in quick turnarounds. Unlike traditional methods, robots can be programmed with a wide variety of instructions, suited to the brief of the season. Robots can also be installed within small cells so that production staff can continue to work safely alongside the process adding other final human touches without having to touch the products themselves, greatly reducing the risk of potential contamination.

At Dutch bakery De Bakker for example, high quality petit-fours are produced for consumption in restaurants and hotels. These petit fours require personalisation, with a choice of different patterns and icing styles. By using an ABB IRB 140 robot to perform the personalised icing, the company has been able to satisfy customer demand whilst simultaneously reducing its turnaround times, increasing productivity by over 1,000%.

Another area where robots can be used is high speed cutting. UK confectionery producers Boomf had a niche idea to offer its customers the ability to print their choice of photos, graphics and messages onto marshmallows - the ultimate in batch size one production. Manually cutting the marshmallows into squares took a total of five minutes. After introducing a robot cell incorporating an ABB IRB 1200, the cutting process took a total of just 17 seconds. By helping to greatly speed up production and reduce delivery times, the robot played a major role in helping the business to grow at an astounding rate of 600%.

Energy efficiency is also important as bakeries seek to reduce costs and improve corporate social responsibility.

With the aim of becoming eco-friendly, major Swiss retailer Coop uses ABB motors and variable speed drives which have a maximum efficiency class rating of IE4 - up to 97% efficiency - at its production and logistics centre in Schasfisheim. Fifteen ABB robots are also used to perform different, highly repetitive tasks. As a result, Coop has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10,000 tons a year - a significant contribution to its long-term goal of achieving CO2 neutral operations across all its divisions by 2023.

All around the world, bakeries are responding to shifting consumer demands by introducing automation technologies, creating a highly competitive marketplace where the ability to get goods to market quickly and with minimum waste and cost is all important. As more and more consumers demand sustainably-produced and tailor-made products suited to their specific tastes, robot automation, drives, and motors will increasingly combine to enable bakeries to deliver sustainable, personalised goods.

1 Taste Tomorrow: Personalisation: a trend in baked goods - 

2 Food Navigator : How can food makers deliver personalisation to the masses? -