Shape and consistency are top robotic challenges in bakery, says Arr-Tech
The counting and stacking specialist is currently developing robotics for primary and secondary packaging of baked goods like flat breads and tortillas.
Morris Woods, electrical controls designer at Arr-Tech Automation Technology, said use of robotics at this stage of a bakery production line was not without its challenges.
“In terms of primary packaging, the biggest challenge usually is the shape and consistency of the products,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com at IBIE 2013 in Las Vegas.
“Most baked products don’t have a great deal of consistency, so we have to deal with that,” he said.
For secondary packaging, he said the challenge was in the packaging itself – working with bags between the robot and product.
The company’s automated counter stackers have variable speed drives to improve product separation and a grip top infeed belt which also helps to separate overlapped products, like tortillas, from the conveyor.
Plenty of pros to robotics
Despite the challenges associated with developing robotics for bakery production lines, Woods said the benefits were huge.
“Bakers can use robotics to save money – it reduces their labor cost. They are also much more reliable,” he said.
While there were hefty up-front costs for robotics, he said that the return on investment was good.
“The huge reduction on labor cost is the first return, but also the longevity. The equipment is very reliable and the maintenance costs are very low for a robot,” he said.
A future ‘norm’ for industry?
All Bake Technologies told this site at the same trade show that there was an automation age set for the bakery sector.
“I believe bakeries are going to lead more toward automation and machinery to do the jobs of workers,” said Anthony Lucisano, regional sales manager at All Bake Technologies.
He said this would be spurred by a rise to the minimum wage set for California in 2016, but would spread across the US.