Minor ingredient handling can save on labor and improve product consistency, quality and ingredient tracking.
Automating ingredient handling is just like upgrading any other part of the production line; it requires investment in equipment, time for installation and training of operators. Bakers want to know they are going to get a favorable return on investment (ROI) and the sooner the better, but with minor and micro ingredients, ROI isn’t as straightforward.

“Minor ingredient ROI is different from bulk ROI,” said Jason Stricker, sales manager, Shick Solutions. “Bulk ROI is all typically based on labor savings and ingredient savings to receive ingredients it in bulk versus bag.”

The biggest returns from automating minors and micros will be tied to labor as well, but most likely will include improved product consistency, quality and process efficiencies, Mr. Stricker continued.

Other benefits include production efficiency, batching accuracy and consistency, lot control and real-time recipe management, according to Mike Palmer, manager ingredient systems applications and services, Gemini/KB Systems.

“In many cases, the benefits are not simply monetary ROI but strategic initiatives for growth, improved product quality and direct production control,” he said. “In the end, it’s really about competitive organizational efficiency that balances costs with industry trends and modern manufacturing technology.”

ROI also is different for each operation because priorities for automating differ from bakery to bakery. “More automation costs up front, but it costs less in the long run because there are reduced labor costs. Or maybe a baker can run more batches in an hour, or it eliminates ergonomic or safety issues and the costs associated with an accident,” said Doan Pendleton, vice-president, Vac-U-Max.

As with all automation, bakers also get the return of improved production efficiencies, according to Mr. Pendleton. “Automating micro ingredient delivery with a pneumatic conveyor has the potential to increase overall production not just in terms of continuous processing and increased throughput but also by reducing downtime for housekeeping, because pneumatic conveyors are fully enclosed systems that dust doesn’t escape,” he said.

Automating the handling of minors and micros can ensure accuracy and product quality, labor savings, food and worker safety, which can all lead back to a financial ROI for bakers ready to make the leap.