Striving for bakery perfection

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With the advent of new technologies and management processes the
way that the bakery and snacks industry is run has changed beyond
all recognition in recent years. Nowhere have these processes and
technologies been further advanced than at British-based APV Baker.
FoodProductionDaily spoke to marketing manager Mark Shearsmith to
discover what the company had done to help transform the industry.

Baking is probably one of the oldest food industries there is. Bread has been made, in various forms, for thousands of years and in many ways the basic principle has remained the same. The very basic principle, that is. With the advent of new technologies and management processes the way that the industry is run has been changed beyond all recognition, in just a few short years.

Nowhere have these processes and technologies been more advanced than at British company APV Baker. As a part of the Ivensis group of industries, which employs some 50,000 people worldwide, APV has risen to the industry challenges to offer a complete start-to-finish service for bakery and confectionery processors.

"We cover every detail of the production process, from technology that monitors the line, right up to technology that can oversee a series of production plants,"​ said Mark Shearsmith, marketing manager for APV Baker. "Within the realms of logistics, we can supply the means for senior executives to monitor the entire production process from their offices.

"We have been offering this complete service for four years, but technology has been driving it all the harder and now it is so much more comprehensive than when we first started out. Consolidation in the industry means that companies want more from their machinery, and we are there to provide the means to do so. One of our main objectives is to add value for our customers, and in doing this the aim is to make the production process more efficient and cost effective.

"Our staff come from engineering and processing backgrounds and have specialised training in Sixth Sigma - an analysis software tool to monitor equipment and find out where faults may occur on the line.

"We are trying to get away from the old school of bakery and confectionery production. That means the people with the little black books looking after one tiny aspect of the production process have now become a thing of the past. Advanced technology means that we now have a wider and more detailed view of the manufacturing picture, and one that is far more accurate."

Competition within the industry has been tremendous in recent years. In turn this has led to a huge increase in the need for such businesses to be run in a safer, more efficient and cost effective manner, which is why logistics has turned into such an important area.

"There has been a great deal of pressure on our customers to improve the tracking of supplies throughout the production process. Now every aspect of the production process can be minutely analysed. This is particularly important for food safety, because the production process can be effectively monitored, and should anything go wrong, the source can be more easily tracked.

"Our ultimate goal is the 'lights off' factory. This is a facility that can effectively be self-managed, without anyone being on the factory floor to oversee production.

"Making bread has never been rocket science and the basic production process will never change, but technology can enable us to improve this process."

There are numerous technologies now available to monitor food production, but one of the most widely used in the bakery and snack industry are Dipix monitoring technologies. And the Canadian company supplies a host of equipment to aid APV in its ambitions to improve productivity.

"Dipix systems can measure the topography of, for example, a hamburger bun. Its technologies can be used to count the number of sesame seeds on a bun as well as assessing the size. All this boils down to is quality, because customers want to get as near to perfection as possible and it is such technology that can be used to enhance the production process and quality."

APV has a dedicated R&D facility at its Peterborough headquarters. The facility has five bays, each concerning a different area of the production process. Customers have the option to either undertake the development work themselves, work in conjunction with the APV team, or else leave the job entirely in APV's hands. The facility is used for the complete production spectrum - from product development through to the development of technology and processing equipment.

"One of our biggest strengths is turnkey solutions. We can provide a complete development service without the customer having to invest in testing machinery, something that is particularly valuable to smaller and medium-sized companies. Having said that, we work with a complete spectrum of companies, including all the major internationals and companies in developing markets."

So what lies in store for this segment? Just how much further can the efficiency of the industry be improved? It is interesting to note that because of the mature state of many of the Western bakery and snack businesses, an increasing amount of APV'S work is being found in alternative markets.

"Consolidation within the industry means that equipment is constantly being moved around in the more mature markets of Europe and the US, which does provide a lot of business for us. However, many of the bigger opportunities are starting to emerge in the less developed markets, such as the Middle East and the Far East."

Related topics Ingredients

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