Performance dashboards monitor actual delivery vs. scheduled appointments to ensure on-time supply of snacks and baked goods.

Integral to lean management

Switching to an automated system typically results in 20% to 30% labor savings that could be allocated elsewhere in a bakery or snack manufacturing operation.

“Today, all bakeries have a gap in finding a skilled workforce,” Mr. Ulmer said. “Saving in shipping and picking means bakeries can use the labor force somewhere else.”

Accuracy remains another primary driver when calculating the initial return on investment (ROI), said Mark Maraj, vice-president, sales and marketing, MiT Systems.

“Companies that are still manually doing proof of delivery by paper typically make the most sense to automate, given the rapid ROI associated with paperless delivery and the level of visibility gained,” he said. “This will positively impact the distribution supply chain and provide accountability when shipping or receiving finished products or raw materials.”

Integrating distribution into the entire operation also provides backstream benefits that rationalize the production process throughout the plant, noted Bill Grimaldi, senior systems integrator and general manager, Focus Works.

“As your operations are streamlined and become more controlled, your inventory is much more accurate,” he explained. “In having solid inventory, you can then manage your schedules intelligently. This will eliminate waste by not having product discarded due to expiring, as well as eliminate waste from production. You will also benefit from not having to produce inventory that is not needed, which wastes material and manpower.”

Typically, D.S.D. warehouses use a put-to-light or pick-to-light process. Overall, the WMS monitors products as they flow off the packaging line to document in real time what the bakery has produced. Under put-to-light, the system directs the warehouse transfer of snacks or baked goods to place them under the correct light to fill orders. The pick-to-light sorts products where operators select multiple varieties to build orders per customer.

Those who don’t have such systems work in the Dark Ages, in more ways than one.

“It sounds unbelievable, but most bakeries without a picking system have no real production recording or inventory management,” Mr. Ulmer said. “Thousands of items — and dollars — are produced and not recorded. Our system knows exactly what was made and gives this information to the production department. This way, production knows what is still missing and can adjust the plan if necessary. Looking at bakeries that produce frozen goods, our system supplies an on-line inventory. Based on the inventory and forecast, internal production orders can be generated to replenish the stock.”

In many ways, such systems dovetail nicely into bakeries implementing lean management strategies designed to eliminate waste and reduce downtime. They also provide much-welcomed organization for high-volume efficiencies with real-time data that ultimately enhance overall yield that directly impacts the bottom line.

“We guarantee at least a 90% improvement in the unaccounted for bucket and 30% to 50% improvement in the order picking operation in the shipping area,” Mr. Braun said. “It’s all about keeping track of production through final delivery by keeping track of what’s produced and where it is at any given moment.”

It also avoids the dreaded “unaccounted for” items that drain profits.

“Paper-based picking doesn’t allow to see what’s happening to each loaf of bread coming off the line, being dispatched and getting to where it should be, and that’s what our system does,” he added.