THOMASVILLE, GA. — Flowers Foods has steadily raised the bar on bakery automation with computer-integrated manufacturing.

“At Oxford, the batching and mixing systems are integrated and tied into one system to avoid hand-offs between sections,” said Paul Rainey, director of manufacturing support and integration, Flowers Foods.

“In the future, we want the equipment to send its own results through our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system,” he added. This relieves the operator from having to write down results and manually report them. “We want the processing equipment itself to tell us what is happening.”

When Flowers opted for ERP, Mr. Rainey served on the evaluation team as the manufacturing group’s representative. The team recommended SAP.

All equipment at the Oxford bakery, like Flowers’ other highly automated facilities, is run by Allen-Bradley controls and terminals.

The newest enhancement project involves mobile systems that are currently being rolled out.

“We want to improve productivity in the maintenance department,” Mr. Rainey explained. “We want to enable engineers to manage their workload out on the floor instead of being restricted to the maintenance office keying data into a computer. Handhelds do facilitate this change by receiving and sending information wirelessly into the SAP system.

“Not yet implemented at Oxford, we have maintenance departments at four of our bakeries now operating on a mobile platform. We also have implemented the mobility project in the receiving area at seven of our bakeries. In receiving, it becomes an accuracy, efficiency and food safety tool.”