Amazon warehouse-style automated guided vehicles (AGVs) now provide a next-generation alternative for high-volume bakeries that want to automate bulky trough handling in their traditional sponge-and-dough fermentation process to reduce labor and enhance worker safety.

“The AGV is programmed to move troughs automatically, eliminating the need for human intervention,” said Daniel Habel, product team leader, AMF Flex, a part of AMF Bakery Systems. “Longer fermentation and push-button changeovers from one dough formulation to another for different fermentation times and increased operator safety are a few of the benefits.”

In many operations, these troughs can handle anywhere from several hundred to a couple of thousand pounds of sponge and dough. Sponges may rest in a temperature- and humidity-controlled fermentation room anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day.

Throughout the years, bakeries have incorporated many labor-saving options to automate this part of the process, ranging from liquid brew systems for buns and rolls to a variety of storage-and-retrieval systems for other large bakeries.

AGVs, along with laser-guided vehicles (LGVs), provide improved hygiene, food safety, operator safety and lower maintenance costs, noted Joakim Nordell, export sales manager, Stewart Systems and Baker Thermal Solutions, which are Middleby Bakery companies.

“The new AGV systems using laser- or radio-guided vehicles from Middleby offer more flexibility in handling systems with various mixes per hour and a wider range of fermentation time,” he said. “The LGV system will automatically move the troughs between mixers and the trough room. Once a trough is placed in the fermentation room, it will remain in the same position until the time is up.”

This article is an excerpt from the February 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Buns & Rolls Processing, click here.