Sensors that allow bakers to monitor equipment, head off problems and avoid downtime are becoming critical to success. The intelligence these provide is a powerful tool.

“It gives you information; it gives you knowledge,” said James Kline, president of The EnSol Group. “That really is the crux of having smart equipment. It’s the information it can give you with regard to your performance. At the end of the line, what are you getting out of the line versus what is the standard? If I’m supposed to be getting 2,000 dozen packs an hour and I’m getting 1,920, why is there a difference?”

The technology is becoming more accessible to bakers who understand the impact it can have on operations.

“More and more of our customers employ digital tools,” said Jim Fontaine, bakery field sales manager, Reiser. “Many of our customers allow us access to their machines remotely. This helps greatly with maintenance and troubleshooting. All new Vemag dividers are equipped with this capability. More and more customers are allowing us this access, and we expect the trend to continue.”

Bun season puts a strain on operations, so having smart equipment and machinery that can easily be integrated makes things easier, said Josh Hughes, sales account manager, Burford Corp.

“Equipment that can provide predictive maintenance feedback to the maintenance team would be a great investment,” he said. “Preventing unscheduled downtime is one of the most important things during bun season.”

Smart equipment allows bakers to optimize performance with ease as the equipment is able to talk to each other.

“If I’m going from bread to buns, and I have to optimize the transfer of that product from one end to the other, equipment can talk to one another and say, ‘I need my conveyors to be running at 53 feet per minute all the way along the line,’ and they do it,” Mr. Kline said. “That’s a big difference from having to have someone walk the entire line and make sure the pan feed rates of the depanner are the correct speed, the depanner is at the correct speed and the conveyors are at the correct speed.”

He added that older machines can be retrofit with sensors and that this has become more cost effective. 

Technological advances are being developed in several areas for bakers. For instance, Middleby is developing new systems for reduced bake times, vacuum cooling to speed up that process as well as modified atmosphere packaging, said Joakim Nordell, export sales manager, Stewart Systems, a Middleby Bakery company.

Ready or not, the busy bun season is almost here. Bakeries that ensure that equipment is in top working condition, that workers are well-trained, and schedules and machinery are optimized will be prepared for a successful summer.