To meet increasing demand from consumers, artisan bakers are turning to automated equipment to bump up their throughput and decrease dependency on labor. This is all done while maintaining the gentle handling of these delicate doughs.

To increase capacity, Fritsch USA lengthened its rounding system to handle multiple rows of products in one rounding movement. This enables bakers to delicately round more products at a time.

Automation also helps reduce tension with its ability to process and respond to data.

“Our lines all operate in a cascade,” said Eric Riggle, president, Rademaker USA. “Any change an operator makes to speed, thickness or stroke rate, the system automatically recognizes it, and everything adjusts according to that.”

This prevents the dough from pushing, pulling or piling up on the conveyor, which would create stress and tension.

The company also aims to make its equipment as intuitive to operate, changeover and clean as possible to help the industry accommodate a less-skilled workforce.

“Our clients want an ‘Easy’ button, a big red button that says ‘Easy,’” Mr. Riggle said.

Rademaker’s lines are designed to be disassembled and reassembled in only one way with an operator interface that sets operators up to successfully changeover and clean equipment.

The next major challenge bakers will face in commercializing artisan production, Mr. Riggle said, will be automating the fermentation process.

“It’s labor intensive and a variable,” he said. “How do we help bakers find a happy balance between a good quality product and what makes sense to automate? Those are the big challenges.”