How to Decide When to Automate Your Ingredient Handling System?
Most bakery owners understand the benefits of automating minor and micro handling processes. Yet, finding the right moment to make the transition can be difficult.
While a majority of large facilities already automate their bulk ingredients, less than half of them automate their minor ingredients. The cost of entry and perceived return on investment (ROI) account for the two primary preventative points. Justifying the upfront investment to automating any ingredients handling system can be tricky. Ultimately, it remains more of a question of when to automate micros and minors less a debate about whether or not it’s a good idea to automate them at all.
At the outset, automating every minor ingredient, however, may not be the best approach. Many small ingredients are so minimal that adding them by hand still makes the most sense. Minor and micro ingredients in volume for large batches, on the other hand, are far more amenable to automation.
For most bakeries, a limited number of minor ingredients account for the majority of minor ingredients used. It, therefore, makes better sense to consider automating those ingredients first instead of automating every micro and minor you have at the facility. While the cost of automating each additional ingredient will rise linearly, you’ll observe a linear decline in incremental value and poundage.
Automating minor ingredients handling cuts costs
After automating your minor and micro ingredients handling system, you will save on material expenses. The cost-benefit of automating high volume use of minor ingredients means bakers can take advantage of bulk pricing offers. After automating, your facility’s productivity output increases, as well.
When you were using 50 pounds of minor agreements over a week before, automation allows you to use 500 pounds per week now. Most vendors offer price breaks for bulk purchases, and you can capitalize on them when you buy your ingredients in large quantities.
Upon determining whether or not it is time to automate your minor ingredients handling system, you must assess the quantity and size of your production lines along with their throughput. If you’ve found yourself running more batches than in previous years, and your manual operators are having a hard time keeping in with the flow requirements, it’s a good time to automate.
Ultimately, the decision to upgrade to automated technology depends on the number of ingredients you’re dealing with and your financial capacity to complete the transition. If you are producing an increased volume of baked goods, commanding a higher micro ingredient count, this is a good indicator that you’ll benefit from automating your small ingredients handling.
Presuming your production requires the same minor ingredients used over the multiple SKUs, automating your minors and micros is undeniably worth looking into. Likewise, if your facility produces a high volume of baked goods that require similar micro ingredients, you’ll undoubtedly reap several rewards after automating the handling process of those ingredients.
Industrial automation solutions resolve accuracy issues
For bakeries plagued by quality issues that stem from inaccurate measurements or missing ingredients, automating now is the most reliable path to eliminating this problem. When it comes to manual processes, mistakes are common, and they frequently lead to inconsistent products and wasted batches.
Despite the tendency among many bakers to bulk at the upfront capital required to purchase automated equipment, most realize that the return on investment is discoverable in reduced labor costs over time. Likewise, once bakery owners resolve the product variability associated with manual operators, they find increased revenue through a consistent product and improved customer retention.
Labor reduction and the capacity to reduce, if not entirely eliminate, human error represent the main upsides of automating your micro ingredients handling system. Before jumping into any significant investment, businesses must examine their overall resources to determine if labor reduction, improved accuracy, and enhanced production efficiency justify the costs.
One objection bakeries typically offer when it comes time to decide whether or not to automate their micros and minor ingredients handling processes is the perceived benefits only exist in the abstract or hypothetical. That’s because, due to several uncontrollable variables, outcomes after automating are often difficult to predict.
Small to medium-sized bakeries have the hardest time opting for industrial automation solutions because they are less than confident that they can realize an immediate financial return. Justifying the upfront costs against several intangible benefits that may take years to pay off means that automating represents more of a long-term strategy than an immediate improvement to the company’s bottom line.
How do you decide when to make the leap into automation?
This is a difficult question to answer because priorities vary from business to business. Bakery owners must consider a diverse set of factors to determine if now is the right time to automate their ingredients handling. The decision, however, should ultimately be based on our long-term business growth objectives. Most bakers intent on increasing production capacity know that they must implement automated solutions and some point in the near future.
Increased production capacity and faster batch speed aren’t the only upsides to automating, however. Food production facilities benefit from improved process safety and sanitation, lower dust emissions, not to mention reduced manual labor costs and better accuracy. Bakery owners must assess several material-specific factors to determine if automation is the right solution for their businesses.
For instance, what are the bulk densities of your primary minor and micro ingredients? Do they have specific particle sizes, flow characteristics, friability, and cohesiveness? Whatever you decide, it remains vital that you define your long-term goals upfront and work with a team of experts who understand the equipment and software controls.
Consider EZSoft for your process control system solutions
Proven and reliable full-service systems integrators can be hard to come by. Are you ready to automate and have questions about which software controls to choose? Do you persist in asking yourself, “Where do I industrial automation companies near me?”
For over two decades, EZSoft has been writing software that controls automated equipment for the food processing industry. Call (484) 568-5040 to find how more about implementing an automated ingredients handling system at your facility today.