Three-packs of graham crackers are horizontally wrapped with cold-seal film and shipped to school foodservice.

VERSAILLES, KY. — In a bakery operation that focuses on flexibility, the human element becomes critical at the packaging stage. This is not only for quality control, where people can keep a watchful eye for damaged or out-of-spec product, but it’s also because of the inverse relationship between automation and flexibility in packaging.

“If we need to change sizes or shapes for different customers,” said Bill Quigg, president, More Than A Bakery, “people can do that very easily; machines can’t.” Because of this, the company placed a heavy emphasis on worker comfort and ergonomics on the packaging line. For example, the stations are equipped with stands that can be raised or lowered up to 10 in. with the push of a button.

The Benchmark Automation transport system was also designed to be user-friendly, with ergonomically designed magazines operators can fill with one sweeping motion reminiscent of a blackjack dealer’s sleight of hand.

Once the magazines are filled, six semi-automatic disc feeders rotate under the chutes and strip the product to be fed into the Formost Fuji Alpha 7 horizontal wrappers. In this case, graham crackers for a school foodservice customer were being wrapped in three-count packages, which the disc feeders stripped in a two-and-one pattern.

In the spirit of More Than A Bakery’s high standards for sanitation, the Alpha 7, which uses a cold-seal film, has a cantilevered design that allows for any debris or crumbs to fall to the floor without buildup on the machine.

Because cases are packed manually, Jeremy Brunner, More Than a Bakery’s director of engineering, worked with Benchmark to design a semi-automated system to bring erected cases downstream to the operators, who can then place the boxes on an angled table for easy hand-loading of individually wrapped product before the product is shipped off.