Baggers that can do more — and do it efficiently — are what bakers need in the ever-diversifying industry.

When it comes to streamlining the process of packaging certain bakery products, operating today’s baggers is a piece of cake. Or, as the case may be, buns and breads.

For bun and bread products, baking companies are making equipment choices based on the increasingly ubiquitous demands of speed and versatility so that the packaging process doesn’t slow down overall production. That’s true for packaging systems that overwrap loaves using a flowwrapper or those that are focused on bulk packaging with larger pillow packs.

“Any time you can speed up production time is a big plus for manufacturers,” said Angela McDaniel, marketing coordinator for Formost Fuji. “At the same time, versatility is a growing concern

because people want to run more variety of counts and sizes and have different configurations.”

Stacking product for bagging needs to be done quickly but gently to ensure product quality and plant productivity is maintained.

Need for speed

Those drivers of versatility and speed are underscored by Mitch Lindsey, technical sales for Burford Corp. “Speed is a growing requirement because bakeries want the capability to speed up lines in the event one of them goes down, so the others can carry the load. Versatility is certainly important, and our closure machines are versatile in the fact that they can be — and are — used in several different applications,” he said.

Improved bag closure systems also speed things along while maintaining consistency. Kwik Lok Corp. offers a high-speed closing machine, the 893 ULTRA, that features easy-to-use touchscreen commands and runs closures or custom-printed closure labels for all lines at speeds from 30 to 110 bags per minute. Kwik Lok has also focused on technology innovations, upgrading its software that monitors the arrival of bags and helps ensure that closures have properly advanced.

Upping the numbers for volume while maintaining consistency is a demand heeded by LeMatic, Inc. When asked about emerging manufacturer demands and trends, sales director Brandon Woods noted, “Rates, rates, rates and less operator interference.”

While the packaging rates may be higher, making sure that users can keep up is pivotal as well, said Mr. Woods, who cited simplicity as an important element of the design and application of some of LeMatic’s bagging systems. “We have reduced the number of servos on our bagger and still manage to keep the production rate high for the capacity of the bakery to run more packages per minute,” he reported.

In addition, Mr. Lindsey noted that bakers are looking for bread and bun baggers that can deliver on consistency. “Any downtime at the point of closure is a potential loss of all the labor, ingredients and material that goes into the product,” he pointed out. At the same time, Mr. Lindsey also noticed that many bakery operators are saving on bags by using a thinner or a shorter bag.

To that point, the bottom line for baggers, as with other equipment, is often the bottom line. “The baker is in the business to make money just like everyone else and look for anything that can aid them in that process,” Mr. Lindsey said.

Alain Lemieux, R&D manager at AMF Bakery Systems, echoed manufacturers’ demands for speed, efficiency, reliability and package quality and said that meeting simultaneous demands has led to bagging systems that can do more. “AMF equipment provides more integrated designs,” he reported, adding that fewer parts for less downtime is another factor in bagging systems with integrated functions and features.

Simple equipment design helps operators keep up with the machines and their high speeds.

A whole new bag

As the need for speed ramps up — along with the other key factors of consistency, reliability, versatility and ease of use — suppliers are enhancing their baggers, whether tweaking some features or launching new systems.

One company that has upgraded its system based on speed is Bettendorf Stanford. The company’s revamped BSI 50 machine has new caming motions and advanced features, including a new 30-to-1 low backlash gearbox and Micrologix controls that allow for speeds of 50 to 60 per minute, with an added benefit of open design.

Meanwhile, in keeping with interest in integrated solutions, AMF offers a new Combination Bread Slicer and Bagger. “The Combo offers the elimination of the transfer from the slicer to the bagger for better control of product between the slicer and bagger. Likewise, integrated controls offer more efficient operation of the slicer/bagger,” Mr. Lemieux explained. Other highlights include a patented pendulum scoop drive that provides smooth scoop operation at all operating speeds, new access doors and longer infeed conveyors for easier maintenance and sanitation.

AMF has also unveiled a Servo Dual-Lane (SDL) Variety Bagger that offers efficient packaging for buns, rolls and English muffins by featuring a dual-lane controlled in-line stacking system. According to Mr. Lemieux, the SDL increases packaging speed while reducing component speed by half. In addition, AMF has upgraded its HS40 Bulk Bun Packer with a new impulse sealer that allows for safer sealing assembly with the removal of hot seal bars. “The patented independent lane hold-downs reduce pressure on the rolls and eliminates indexing errors,” he said.

Also focusing on equipment R&D is Formost Fuji, which is introducing new features for its Formost Bun System, including a redesigned high-speed grouper. “The high speed grouper maintains gentle product handling and helps manufacturers improve ROI on their line,” said Dennis Gunnell, Formost Fuji vice-president of sales and marketing. The new bun system enables complete inline flow with no 90-­degree transfers and minimal stack travel to bag. It also goes hand-in-hand with Formost Fuji’s GTS bagger. According to Mr. Gunnell, the GTS bagger has also been enhanced with a different control package and will be showcased at the International Baking Industry Exhibition (IBIE) Oct. 8-11 in Las Vegas.

LeMatic is targeting mid-sized to small bakeries with a new system for bread slicing and bagging, the LS3 Bulk Packer. The system can process up to 22 packages a minute in plants with small to medium production volumes.

According to Mr. Woods, LeMatic is also set to unveil a new LX-8i bun bagger at IBIE. “This is an inline system without any directional changes in the flow of the product,” he explained.

Meanwhile, closures used with baggers for breads and buns are also a focus of improvements. Mr. Lindsey noted the role that effective twist ties can play in bagging bread and bun products.

As demand increases for bread and bun production, and bakers continue to focus on speed and versatility, updates in bagging equipment will help them keep pace.