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Preventive maintenance and automation will help bakers improve competitiveness

Bakers and food manufacturers have faced constant price pressure for many years, and expect to continue to do so. Small- and medium-sized operations in particular have to compete hard against both discounters and supermarket requirements. To stay competitive they must increase efficiency in production, maintain reliability and reduce energy consumption through the analysis of process and production data.

Bakery Conveyor Automation

Different bakery manufacturing

Small-scale operations, such as franchise bakeries, typically supply 100–200 outlets with a range of products. Though often not appreciated by the owners, there is usually considerable potential for automation – which must be realised if they are to remain competitive. Craft bakers typically perform the different process steps of bread making – kneading, proving and baking, independently. However, Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) can be significantly increased, simply by networking the various operations using standard automation technologies. This allows data to be collected and analysed to identify bottlenecks, weaknesses, cost drivers, waiting times and energy consumption, which can then be addressed – often at little or no cost.

Bakery production monitoring

Bakeries frequently suffer from significant discrepancies between financial forecasts and reality. By collecting actual production data, including changeover times and other manual processes, process transparency will lead to improved management. Transparency is also a prerequisite for continuous improvement, for example constant monitoring of the process line will enable maintenance to be optimised against production. Such data transparency allows constant re-optimisation, which reduces costs, increases quality and achieves greater time efficiencies.

How can automation help a new bakery?

In a new-build project the latest technologies can be used from the outset. Components can be networked with the help of the latest communications’ standards or using automation platforms such as the iQ Platform from Mitsubishi Electric. These provide seamless communication within the system with a high degree of transparency. Mitsubishi Bakery Automation

How can automation help an existing bakery?

The more common scenario, however, is that existing plants are modernised. The plant, equipment and procedures will have grown organically over time. In such cases, companies will need to retrospectively link separate pieces of equipment from different manufacturers and of different ages in order to collect data for effective management, which may include CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning) or SCM (supply chain management). With the help of standard automation components, such as the MES-IT interface module from Mitsubishi Electric, the necessary transparency can be achieved quickly and cost-effectively. This module collects production data and test results from every manufacturing step and transfers them in real time to higher level systems for analysis and reporting. Such technology is easy to connect to existing systems, often requiring no interruption to production. Mitsubishi Bakery Automation

Preventive maintenance within food processing

In the food processing industries machine failure often means an entire batch is lost, so preventive maintenance that reduces breakdowns to almost nil is a major advance. Modern control platforms, touch screens and high-performance sensors can be integrated with flexible maintenance and repair solutions, such as the SmartCheck vibration detector from Schaeffler or the MAPS Life-Cycle-Software tool from Mitsubishi Electric, to provide the necessary data for preventive maintenance concepts. The University of Weihenstephan is currently developing a universal standard for the bakery industry. This defines a communications interface for machinery and software which will enable full IT connectivity of all systems for quality assurance, weakness analysis, efficiency evaluation and energy consumption. Similar interfaces are being introduced in the brewery, beverage and meat processing industries.

Future-proofing your bakery

Bakers face major challenges including increasing product diversity, faster new product development, faster changeovers on the production line, increasingly fluctuating order quantities, shorter product life cycles, stricter statutory regulations, more hygiene directives and increasing cost pressure. Networked automation can provide continuous product improvement efficiency gains and cost savings, ensuring competitiveness in the long term.

Do you have any comments on automation and how this has effected your manufacturing site?

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Company Profile

Mitsubishi Electric Europe

As the UK arm of one of the world’s leading manufacturing companies, Mitsubishi Electric has been supplying automation products and solutions to the UK for over 35 years.

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