Here is our second installment on how bakers are “going green” in more ways than one.
In response to consumer trends and requests from retailers, bakers are searching for more environmentally friendly packaging as part of broader sustainability efforts. In addition to improving their perception with consumers, many companies are discovering that several of these initiatives can save them money as well.
In our upcoming production technology report in the July issue of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine, we’ll discuss how it pays to “go green.” In a sneak preview for Operations Weekly readers, here is another one of our interviews for the report.
In this installment, we interviewed Larry Gore, director of product marketing, AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, Va.
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery: What consumer or new product trends are impacting the packaging departments in wholesale bakeries, and what types of systems have your company developed to accommodate these emerging trends?
Larry Gore: From a wholesale bread and bun bakery perspective, we are seeing increased interest in the automation of basket and case loading and automated order make-up systems to reduce operating cost but also improve product distribution accuracy and efficiency and reduce product damage associated with manual product handling. Our customers are looking at every area of their operations to leverage technology for incremental performance improvements that will enhance their competitive position, customer satisfaction and profitability.
AMF has invested substantial resources in the development of both the robotic and mechanical equipment that allow for the complete automation of product handling. We have combined this equipment technology with specially designed software to allow our automated technology go one step further into the arena of automated order make-up for both basket and corrugated applications.
AMF is working with bread and bun/roll bakeries to automate the entire secondary packaging system replacing many manual functions. These systems include automated basket handling from the returned baskets including automated dolly unloading, basket unstacking, basket washing, robotic basket loading, basket stacking, stack distribution and dolly loading. In addition to total automation of the product secondary packaging process, AMF is involved in partnerships to totally automate the order make-up system that will include partial basket stacks to meet specific route distribution requirements.
One of the major innovations that AMF has developed is a patented vacuum head “end of arm tool” (EOAT) for our articulating arm robotic product loader that is specifically developed for handling poly bagged products as you have with bread and bun packaging. This EOAT allows for unmatched pattern flexibility and a special vacuum cup design [that] properly grips each package but in a way that has no negative effect on the poly.
SF&WB: How are you addressing the issue of sustainability? How important is the issue for bakers and snack producers?
Gore: As an equipment manufacturer, AMF is adding to sustainability in a couple ways. First we incorporate energy saving features in our equipment that include high efficiency motors and efficient mechanical designs that reduce required horsepower for operation. We also are designing additional flexibility in our equipment to allow use over a wide variety of applications. This will reduce the number of lines required to produce the same output in many cases. The result is reduced equipment count and the associated reduced power usage and reduced plant space that must be lighted, heated and cooled.
SF&WB: Finally, how does your latest technology differ from what's already out there in the market?
Gore: The major difference is that AMF has incorporated a secondary automated packaging system that utilizes a wide variety of equipment design elements to develop an application specific solution. Up until now, most equipment companies offer one or two elements of the secondary automated packaging systems. This adds the responsibility of project integration to the baker to coordinate multiple vendors and integrate individual elements into a highly efficient system. This is very difficult. AMF has developed industry leading equipment and the infrastructure to design, manufacture, project manage, install and start-up automated secondary packaging lines. It is very important to have the best equipment, best design and professional implementation to reach the synergistic efficiency results that are the target of automated systems.
Editor’s Note: Go to www.amfbakery.com for more information.