Automated Packaging for Sensitive Goods

Whether you buy them from the supermarket shelf – fresh or frozen – or delivered to you, bread, bread rolls, croissants, pastries and cakes are sensitive foodstuffs that place high demands on production processes and packaging. Therefore, automation and digitalization are becoming increasingly important issues for the bakery industry. 

Without any form of packaging, bread, bread rolls, or pastry products are usually only available in a bakery. But freshly bought products should, however, also be promptly consumed. By contrast, industrially produced baked goods cannot do without packaging. Robust trays are needed for fragile products such as biscuits, while other baked goods are very sensitive to pressure and can be safely packed inside tube bags. But packaging not only protects against mechanical hazards. Certain barrier properties allow packaging to extend shelf life without compromising on high quality. Growing mobility, an increase in single households and increasing consumption outside the home make reusable packaging for takeaway or smaller packaging sizes very attractive. 

Sustainable packaging materials must meet all these requirements as well, which are increasingly in demand by the market – a real challenge for the producers of baked goods and packaging. But recyclability, reduced usage of material and less packaging have long become trends within the baked goods sector, and so, monomaterial film, paper-based solutions and cardboard packaging with biobased coatings have already become industry staples.

Automated Solutions for the Bakery Industry 

The business environment is quite challenging for the baked goods industry: high cost pressure, increasing variety of products, a change in consumers’ habits and the demand for more sustainability result in new requirements towards both production and packaging processes. In order to remain competitive, manufacturers of baked goods need flexible systems with which to react to market trends. In the future, it will be almost impossible to avoid an ever-increasing degree of automation. Digital processing and packaging machines are therefore of great importance, as is the growing integration of robots. These automated assistants have become an integrated part of the bakery industry as well. Pick-and-place robots, equipped with suitable gripping tools, are able to handle sensitive products like biscuits, bars or other baked goods. If the product or format changes on the packaging line, only the associated gripping tool needs to be changed. Long downtimes are avoided this way. 

For example, Syntegon has developed a proprietary Intelligent Direct Handling (IDH) pick-and-place system for cookies, crackers and biscuits, which uses linear motor technology for an especially gentle handling of the sensitive products. The system also enables faster production speeds, as it can grip several products at the same time and place them on feeding belts or into trays in a single work step.

Read the rest of the article in the spring issue of Wold Bakers Digital.

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