KANSAS CITY — When it comes to capital spending, timing is everything. Take Tippin’s Gourmet Pies. After the company moved into its new facility in 2020, the Kansas City, Kan., pie maker improved product consistency, efficiency and capacity while providing labor savings.

“We put automation in to help impact our workers,” said Jim Antrup, vice president of sales and marketing, Tippin’s. “It wasn’t to replace them, but to limit the amount of lifting and repetitive motion. With the current labor market, thank goodness we put some automation in because hiring has been so difficult.”

In the older facility, pies were manually loaded and unloaded onto 6-foot racks that were pushed into cooling areas and the freezer, then pulled out later for finishing and packaging. Now everything is conveyorized.

“From a workplace safety perspective, we eliminated all of the pushing and pulling of those heavy racks filled with pies,” Mr. Antrup told Baking & Snack recently. “From a quality and food safety perspective, the fewer times you touch something, the better it is.”

Newly installed robotics assist to reduce repetitive motion in the decorating of pies.

“Mostly they’re hand-decorating if we’re running behind or to touch up what the robotics may have missed,” Mr. Antrup said.

The bakery also added pallet lifts to eliminate any strenuous bending and picking up of flour bags. Newly installed robotics minimized repetitive motion in the decorating of pies, and automatic case erecting reduced repetitive tasks and paid for itself in a matter of months.

This year, strategic investments can go a long way in improving a bakery’s operation for both employees and the bottom line.