The pie category has struggled in recent years to gain any growth outside of the end-of-year holidays. With family sizes shrinking, even 9-in. pies may be too large for an impulse dessert purchase at the supermarket. To grow sales, pie manufacturers have started offering smaller pies and more innovative ones, whether that’s in flavor or complexity. Both trends have generated demand for equipment that can change things up.

Modularity can be a straightforward way to build flexibility into a pie production line. This approach is especially worthwhile for bakers looking to create more complex layered pies. While it may seem such products would add complexity to the production process, it doesn’t have to. As Rick Hoskins, chief executive officer, Colborne Foodbotics, said, flexibility isn’t really a challenge from an equipment standpoint.

“With our modular pie lines, it is simple to add different stations to accommodate multi-layered pies and even in the case of four-flavored pies, this is done through our standard depositing technology with some minor modifications,” he said.

Essentially, adding extra layers means planning for extra production stations in the lines.

“What we always recommend to bakers is to invest in equipment that is modular and can be easily adapted or upgraded as their production needs evolve,” said Mauricio Nahum, international applications manager, Unifiller Systems.

Unifiller designs both for modularity and flexibility with close to 100 attachments and accessories to help bakers adapt depositors to their production needs quickly. Semi-automated equipment also enables bakeries to increase production and flexibility during the ramp-up to the holiday season while also allowing bakers to reconfigure their line to produce other sweet goods like cakes or brownies the rest of the year.

“This can be a very cost-effective way to automate production for bakeries that may not have large enough volumes to justify investing in multiple dedicated lines for each kind of product,” Mr. Nahum explained.

For high-volume bakeries, AMF Tromp builds flexibility for complicated pies by integrating multiple depositing stations, one for each possible layer or compartment of a pie. These stations can be added or removed throughout production runs to create many different products on one line.

“A team of master bakers combined with precision engineering enables AMF Tromp to create these filled, layered pies at high volumes with unmatched accuracy,” said Hans Besems, executive product manager, AMF Tromp, an AMF Bakery Systems brand. “Speed, accuracy, productivity and high-quality products are essential in bakery automation.” 

All of this improves productivity, diversifies the product portfolio and maximizes throughput and profitability. Flexibility also demands seamless, quick changeovers.

“AMF’s pie lines offer very high flexibility with simple and efficient changeover parts and tooling, allowing for a new or different shape or size to be run within a very short time without affecting the process,” Mr. Besems said.

This article is an excerpt from the December 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on pie processing, click here.