When it comes to customer satisfaction, you can’t just say “That’s the way the cookie crumbles!” when packaging fragile items like cookies or other baked goods.

Meeting customers’ expectations for quality and consistency and hitting operational goals for productivity can be done with systems designed to ensure product protection and optimum line efficiency. Equipment companies offer solutions specifically for fragile products, including an array of delicate products in the baked goods and snack industries.

“The current biscuit trend is towards healthy products, such as filled biscuits, breakfast cookies or gluten-free, sugar-less and cereal biscuits," said Daniel Bossel, global product manager for Bosch Packaging Technology. "These different recipes often result in fragile, homemade-looking shapes, with big dimension tolerances and different designs. We have observed an increasing call for highly flexible, complete solutions that offer gentle and hygienic product handling and high food safety,”

According to Mr. Bossel, Bosch offers complete system solutions for fragile products, ranging from product handling, horizontal and vertical solutions, to cartoning and case packing machines and spanning flat handling and on-edge handling.  In 2018, Bosch introduced the Pack 403, a fully-automated horizontal flow wrapper for medium to high speed wrapping of often-delicate biscuits and crackers. Also, Bosch has developed a new amplified heat-sealing process, the Sigpack AHS, to produce a tight flow pack using a wide range of films and laminates.

Meanwhile, Benchmark, part of the ProMach family of brands, provides gentle handling systems for the end of processing through packaging, spanning conveyors, channeling boards, breakers, laning equipment, row removal systems and automatic infeeds to wrappers, cartoners and case packing. 

“The motion profiles allow for optimum adjustment of the movements according to product-specific parameters and production speed," said Laurie Perolio-Bullinger, marketing manager for ProMach’s product handling group. "The modular designs also support easy maintenance and cleaning,”

Benchmark’s Kleenline brand is an example of one system for fragile items, with conveyors that enable uniform product distribution and fast cycle times in a way that meet sanitary design demand. Another is Benchmark’s InFlight FT loader, offering a continuous motion loading of delicate products in a non-contact feeder; the combination of sensors and a floating belt-to-belt transition is used to time randomly spaced product directly into the flights of a horizontal wrapper or cartoner at speeds up to 500 ppm, according to Perolio-Bullinger.

Indeed, throughput is just as important as protection these days. “Increasing speed without damaging products while achieving line efficiency is the ultimate goal of automating any packaging line,” noted Ms. Perolio-Bullinger.

Advances in robotics also have applications in the packaging of fragile items like cookies, crackers, wafers, and chips, among others. Robotics companies are developing systems with bakery applications, like Belgium-based Pattyn, which has introduced patented robotized technology that picks up fragile goods either with vacuum cups or mechanically.

Bosch also offers delta robots that can be used at high speeds. “Robotics can be integrated into the packaging process from beginning to end – handling, picking, placing, cartoning and case packing,” said Mr. Bossel, citing the company’s modular D3 Presto robotic platform utilized in the secondary packaging process for gentle, flat handling.