How Automation Enables Bakeries
To Increase Efficiency And Profits
By John Hinchey
In today’s technology-centric world, it’s no surprise that a wide range of bakery products are being produced
within fully automated processes. An
increasing number of bakeries are turning
toward warehouse automation to efficiently
manage the short shelf life of fresh
products, minimize labor costs and product
damage, and maximize inventory accuracy and warehouse capacity.
The implementation of automation allows bakeries to reduce
overhead costs while increasing sales, since each item is on the
store shelves well before its expiration date.
The implementation of warehouse automation allows bakeries
to make better use of resources for more efficient throughput. An
automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) coupled with a
warehouse execution system (WES) allows bakeries to have an
increased level of visibility for better planning, and to better control
inventory by providing real-time data. This high level of insight can
improve overall operational efficiency, and allows manufacturers to
use data for future production and supply chain planning.
Many bakeries are embracing automation to reduce labor costs,
maximize order efficiency and accuracy, and decrease the time it
takes to get perishable products from the production line to the
shelves in order to meet customer demand and minimize returned
items. Automation is attractive to bakeries because it requires
less human interaction on the production line — which means
less product handling in the overall operation — creating safer
working environments for employees and reducing labor risks. As
automation continues to evolve and improve, machines will become
smarter, resulting in reduced need for governance and human
Real-time inventory accuracy provides insights on how to
plan future production to meet consumer demand. Bakeries that
implement technologies like a WES and AS/RS will be prepared to
meet the growing consumer demand of bakery products, both at
the store level and in their warehouse operations. When paired with
a WES, an AS/RS helps fresh food manufacturers and distributors
have better control over material handling operations, including
more efficient movement, storage, picking and creation of customer
orders. When used correctly, an AS/RS can improve space utilization
within a warehouse, making it a strong solution for companies that
are running out of space. By utilizing current facilities to their fullest
extent rather than building additional facilities, companies can save
on overhead costs and reduce their environmental impact.
Maximizing storage density is a key to reducing costs in frozen
bakeries. An automated warehousing system simplifies operations
and provides an increased level of flexibility to organize products by
their relative inventory characteristics. By retrofitting a warehouse
with a high-density, multiple-deep AS/RS, manufacturers and
distributors can make better use of their space, allowing them to
store more product and save on storage costs. Organizations that
implement an AS/RS in an existing facility can increase storage
capacity by 30-50 percent. With these space savings, companies
are better poised to accommodate growth.
Automation can also be useful in decreasing labor risks, as the
human body is not designed to work in sub-zero temperatures.
In the frozen food industry, the majority of operations need to
be conducted manually, requiring workers to withstand harsh
environments. These practices are risky for workers, and can
jeopardize operations due to an increased risk of human error.
In order to combat these inefficiencies, companies are turning
to automation technology to decouple labor from sub-zero
environments. While there are many benefits of an AS/RS, such as
improving productivity and increasing inventory accuracy, many
companies are hesitant to make the investment. Often, companies
deem automation as too expensive or too large of an undertaking.
Some companies are putting off the investments to achieve short-term goals. Simply put, they are looking for a quick fix, rather than a
solution that will allow for a competitive advantage.
Just-In-Time Order Fulfillment
With the short shelf life of fresh bakery products, managing
inventory efficiently is important. Combining an AS/RS with a WES
provides greater visibility of available inventory in a warehouse
along with real-time data of SKUs to manage and sequence the
outbound order fulfilment process. Real-time inventory visibility
allows warehouses to accurately plan for future production,
including ingredient and packaging supply purchases.
Real-time inventory accuracy allows warehouses to leverage
insights into operations from an inventory standpoint to satisfy
orders of all sizes. In addition, automation software allows bakeries
to control the inventory within the warehouse along with picking
processes and order staging processes to ensure trucks are turned
much faster and products arrive on store shelves fresh.
The Advantage Of Automation
It is clear that automated systems for bakeries have advantages
over conventional systems. Automation not only saves space for
additional expansion options and allows companies to operate on
smaller plots of land, but it also maximizes operational efficiencies,
labor availability and reliability, and fixes operational costs.
Additionally, automation offers many long-term benefits, including
space savings, reduced costs, increased safety and enhanced
inventory accuracy to meet demands.
John Hinchey is Vice President of Sales at Westfalia Technologies, Inc.