The packaging department in any commercial bakery can be a place where high-speed production slows down. Many varieties require changeovers between materials, and it’s where most of the operators work on the line.

 “Production line quality comes down to the effectiveness of the operators running the line,” said Rocco Fucetola, vice-president of sales and marketing at BluePrint Automation (BPA). “The availability of people with the right technical skills is becoming a big issue in all industries, not just baking and snack.”

With that in mind, BPA made its mission to build machines that require no operators, training or maintenance. While the company doesn’t always achieve its goal, Mr. Fucetola said, it gets close keeping that at the forefront.

“When we can’t, we’ll make everything as easy as possible so whatever is left for the operators to do or think about is as easy as possible,” he said.

This has led to an HMI that walks operators through changeovers with pictures and a mandatory checklist. The checklist prevents operators from skipping important steps. BPA also enabled its equipment to detect whether operators have put the right parts in the machine.

Sealstrip has built its applicators to be easy-to-use, so there isn’t a steep learning curve for operators.

“With our innovative designs of retrofit applicators, there is no costly downtime, little to no maintenance and incremental energy usage,” said Heather Chandler, president of Sealstrip.

Other companies also have made labor reduction a focus of their innovation. The Ishida ACP Case Packer introduced at SNAXPO18 is a fully automatic case packaging system developed to not only increase the speed of snack food packaging but also reduce the labor required.

Bettendorf Stanford focuses on keeping machinery operator friendly because operators must keep the equipment running properly every day.

“If they don’t understand the machine and how, why and when to make adjustments, your scrap rate will increase dramatically as your speeds increase,” said Justin Atkins, director of sales.

Open communication, easy-to-use equipment as well as consistent baked goods and production can keep things moving even through the end of the line.