Case study: Dutch bakery delights Americans
From a bakery at the heart of the Netherlands to American families’ breakfast tables: with its deep-frozen baked goods, De Wafelbakkers succeeded in making this leap across the pond 35 years ago. Its treats, such as pancakes and waffles, have ranked among breakfast favorites across North America. The baked goods manufacturer recently installed a packaging system from Gerhard Schubert GmbH, a worldwide operating packaging machine manufacturing company. At the McDonough production site in Georgia, the machine now packs a variety of baked goods in different packaging formats.
Pancakes, waffles and French toast are by far the most popular breakfast treats in North America. These days the time for a fresh breakfast preparation is getting scarcer and scarcer, because professional and private appointments ensure a full agenda. In addition, it is hardly worth the effort in single households. De Wafelbakkers offers the perfect solution with its frozen specialties: the various products are already pre-baked and therefore ready to eat in just 60 seconds.
The success story of De Wafelbakkers in the USA began in 1984 with the import of waffles to North America directly from the Dutch bakery. The demand rose so quickly that two years later the manufacturer decided to open its first production plant in Hope, Arkansas. The growth continued, production was increased, and the product range was expanded. Today, the company produces a wide range of frozen baked goods, which are distributed throughout the US, Canada and Mexico.
Portioned packaging formats and product variety for more consumer flexibility
To successfully meet growing customer demand, De Wafelbakkers needed to increase production output and flexibility. When investing in a new packaging line for the primary packaging of its products, De Wafelbakkers prioritized product portioning. The bakery decided to offer its customers a new type of packaging: double flowpacks with three or four pancakes stacked on top of each other. The choice was made for a system from Gerhard Schubert GmbH, headquartered in Germany, which convinced with its complete single-source solution.
The TLM packaging machine consists of a picker line and a flow-wrapping component in one system, which offers higher production efficiency, maximum flexibility and the opportunity to pack new products and other formats afterwards. The required format changeover can be quickly realized – just as one would expect from a Schubert packaging machine system. “The possibility to seamlessly combine the packaging of different products and formats in a single system was one of the decisive factors when opting for Schubert’s solution,” highlights Dumas Garrett, president of De Wafelbakkers. A challenge was the stacking and handling of the sensitive frozen products. “Our customers associate our name with the highest product quality and assortment. The goods that are put on sale must therefore be flawless,” explains Don Ephgrave, sr. VP operations at De Wafelbakkers. The manufacturer relied on Schubert’s expertise in gently handling all types of sensitive products. The Crailsheim-based company develops the tools for its pick-and-place robots individually and precisely for each customer product. This is how the manufacturer could provide De Wafelbakkers with the ideal solution.
A single-source solution for supply chain optimization
The TLM packaging machine for De Wafelbakkers is a fully integrated single-source solution. All machine components are designed, developed and produced by Schubert, the world market leader in digital packaging machines. “Single-source solutions like our system offer clear potential for space savings, even better supply chain optimization and they guarantee stronger service support. Because a single contact person is available to answer all your questions,” explains Armin Klotz, Sales Account Manager at Schubert North America. Moreover, all components of the TLM packaging line can be operated easily and efficiently with just one operator guidance system.
High efficiency with integrated 3D Scanner
In the first step of the packaging process, the frozen products are transferred from a 1,000-mm-wide, multitrack product infeed band to a 1,200-millimeter spreading belt, which transfers the products into the TLM system. This spreading ensures that the products are transported into the line at a suitable distance from one another. This guarantees a perfect scanning process. Ten camera-guided F4 robots (four-axis robots) pick and place the products in the infeed chains for the two Flowmoduls. Schubert’s pick & place system guarantees high efficiency with its integrated 3D scanner that detects damaged products and excludes them from any further packaging process. Therefore, only high-quality products are placed in the infeed chain. Depending on the packaging format, the robots stack three or four products on top of each other. The Flowmodul then gently packages the stacks of products into flowpacks and seals them directly. Schubert’s patented sealing technology ensures constant sealing times and enables customers to program the sealing process to the millisecond. For each flowpack, the cross-sealing unit immediately adapts to the variable speed of the upstream pick & place robots.
Due to this complete solution, De Wafelbakkers can now pack up to 600 pancakes per minute – with the guarantee of the highest quality of packaged products. The entire packaging line offers a high degree of flexibility and enables easy and fast format changeovers requiring no additional machine operator. “Thanks to the fully automatic flight change, our customer can quickly switch formats and products with the utmost flexibility,” outlines Doug Granowski, Project Manager at Schubert North America. These benefits of the fully automated single-source solution confirm that De Wafelbakkers has made the ideal choice with Schubert.
Facts & figures:
- Output of up to 600 products and 100 flowpacks per minute
- fully automatic flight change
- system efficiency of 98 percent
- 2 formats for pancakes and 2 formats for waffles
- 10 F4 robots, 2 flow-wrapping components und 1 3D scanner for quality control
About Gerhard Schubert GmbH
Gerhard Schubert GmbH is a globally recognized market leader in top-loading packaging machines (TLM). For its digital, robot-based packaging machines, the family-owned company based in Crailsheim (Baden-Württemberg, Germany) builds on an interplay of simple mechanics, intelligent control technology and high modularity. With this philosophy and a highly developed culture of innovation, the company has been pursuing an entirely independent technological path for more than 50 years.
With its TLM technology, the machine manufacturer provides its customers with future-proof packaging machine solutions that are easy to operate, flexible in terms of format conversion, high-performance and stable in function. The TLM packaging machines pack products of all types and from all sectors—from food, confectionery, beverages, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics to technical products—in trays, cartons, boxes or in flow-wrap bags.
Well-known brands such as Ferrero, Nestlé, Unilever and Roche rely on Schubert’s automation solutions, as do numerous small, medium-sized and family-owned companies. Founded in 1966, the second generation of the company now employs more than 1,300 people.
About Schubert North America
North America is one of the most important growth markets for the Schubert Group. Since the end of 2015, Schubert North America has been coordinating business in this market through its Charlotte headquarters. Together with its service center in Dallas, Texas, and with Schubert Packaging Automation, and its Canadian sales and service office in Mississauga, Ontario, the company can guarantee the best possible service for customers throughout North America.
The headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, with its advanced training machines, also forms the Schubert Training Center for customers in North America and Canada – a core element of Schubert’s service offering. The company’s customers include very well-known corporations as well as medium-sized family businesses and start-ups.