Automation is driving the bus. If equipment can reduce labor, the baker wins, points out John McIsaac, vice president of strategic business development for Reiser, Canton, Massachusetts.

“Our XY panning table allows a single operator to portion product and fill arrays onto baking trays automatically. A quick recipe change, and they can easily change to a new pattern,” he explains.

Tim Levin, marketing manager, Empire Bakery Equipment, points out there are key advancements in automation that are helping alleviate the stress on the bakery workforce.

“We are seeing machines that can take all of the arduous manual tasks of dough production and automate them at the touch of a button,” he explains. “Machines are now equipped with touch screen control panels that operate like a computer system allowing you to upload your recipes and processes.”

Reducing costs

Sheeting is a laborious process for bakers, but computerized sheeters like Empire Baking Equipment’s SMART Programmable Dough Sheeter allow you to place your dough on the belt, hit a button, and get the exact thickness you need every time. With cutting attachments for doughnuts and croissants, the production of these products has never been easier and more stress-free.

Reiser is among equipment companies dedicated to helping retail bakeries reduce labor costs and enhance production efficiency, especially during a time in which the country is experiencing a tight labor market with a general lack of skilled labor.

Available from Reiser, both the Vemag HP1-B and Vemag 500 are perfect for small to mid-size retail bakeries. Both machines are very versatile and can be used to produce a wide range of products.

Both have a small footprint, are mobile, and accessories are easy to handle for changeover and cleaning. Both machines are small, robust, and dependable. The HP1-B is ideal for smaller bakeries looking to move away from hand portioning and into more automated production with precise portioning.

“Our HP1B brings Vemag versatility and product uniformity to smaller bakeries and commissaries,” McIsaac says. “We call it ‘affordable automation.’ The HP1B eliminates manual hand-portioning and instead allows bakers to precisely portion all the doughs, batters, and fillings used in their product line.”

Innovations in equipment are now allowing us to do things we previously thought were not possible, adds Levin of Empire.

For example, Empire’s Gravi-Flux has the ability divide and weigh high hydration doughs of up to 97% hydration. Previous dough dividing machines simply could not properly process the wetter doughs.

“The Gravi-Flux also divides the doughs using a patented cutting system that uses weighing conveyor belts to ensure the highest weight accuracy. This type of dividing by weight is a new technology being introduced in dough production equipment,” Levin says.

True value

Nate McDermott, director of technical sales, WP Bakery Group USA, explains that you want to always look for how any given machine will replace manual work and labor.

“When evaluating each machine you can clearly define how many employees the automation could relieve,” he says. “For example, WP has a compact roll line, named the WP Miniroll, that can do hamburgers, hotdogs, dinner rolls and hoagies. The footprint is 10 feet by 3 feet, requiring one person to operate from dividing to panning fully automatically. The capacity is up to 7,500 hamburgers / hr. High output, small footprint, low labor cost.”

For shaped breads, WP Kemper has a vey flexible line, named the Pane, for square, round, rectangle, baguettes, triangles, etc. It is very flexible and can be expanded as the bakery grows, McDermott grows.

Austin Archdeacon, operations, Erika Record Baking Equipment, presents additional insights from larger bakery operations.

“Makeup and shaping equipment we find to be in the larger wholesale and up into the industrial. The shaping seems to be popping up in different manufacturers around the globe, with enrobing being necessary,” he explains.

Archdeacon explains that certain products that have always been handmade now find global appeal and seem to be finding their way far outside their local roots. “Especially with quick videos being shared about interesting products being made,” he adds, “this peaks interest easily.”