If you’re looking to expand your baking business, you’ve probably thought about automating your line. But is now the right time? New equipment is an investment. How can you know that automation will provide the benefits you want?
There is no hard-and-fast formula to tell you when to automate. The benefits you’ll realize depend on your particular application. But, we can provide some guidelines to help you determine when either full or partial automation is right for you.
When you want to increase production capacity
Increasing production capacity is the most common reason bakers start thinking about automation. Machines work faster than people (and they never call in sick!).
Obviously, for industrial-scale production, you need automation. What might surprise you is how much even smaller facilities can benefit from semi-automation, i.e., adding just a few pieces of automated equipment.
The table below identifies capacity thresholds at which automation will start to provide benefits.
Type of line / process
|Large industrial bread line||2,000 lbs/hour||Fully automated sheeting line|
|Large industrial cake line||1,200 units/hour||Fully automated production and finishing line|
|Small commercial bread line||100 lbs/hour||Semi-automation with a reversible sheeter|
|Dough ball dividing||20 units/minute||Semi-automation with a dough divider|
When you want to reduce your labor requirements
Let’s face it, finding bakery workers today isn’t easy. In the past, companies often sought out automation to save money by decreasing their labor force, especially in parts of the country where wages are higher. That’s still true. But now, many companies are being forced to automate just to keep their plants running.
The amount of labor you can save depends on your product and what part of your line requires the most human resources. Typically, the makeup portion of the line is the most demanding. Here are a couple of examples of when automation is called for from a labor savings perspective:
- If you produce cakes or cupcakes and you have five people assigned to the task of applying frosting, a decorating machine will save you significant time and money.
- If you produce franks in a blanket, a dough folding machine can cut the number of people you need on the line from 10 or 12 down to 5 or 6.
- If you produce boule bread, adding a semi-automatic divider/rounder to your line will eliminate the need for a worker to divide and weigh the dough balls.
- If you produce pan bread, semi-automation can decrease your labor requirements by as much as 60%.
When your main ingredients are expensive
On some lines, one of the biggest expenses comes in the form of ingredients, like the butter (or other fat) used in laminated doughs and the fruit fillings for danishes. In these cases, automation can save you a lot of money via more accurate portioning. A person might put a little extra filling in each pastry, which can add up over time. A machine will always dispense exactly the amount that you specify.
If you’re ready to automate your bakery production, or would simply like more information about the different options available, we can help. Click here to contact us.