How far will automation of the production processes in bakeries go? We have been hearing consistently for the past few years that in the end the production process of bread and pastry will hardly need any human intervention and that moment has now come one step closer as
only one operator is required to keep an eye on the production line. In the future not much more will be needed to turn raw materials into a finished product. Kaak aims to relieve the burden on bakers from silo to crate. In its drive for innovation and further automation, major
steps have been taken in recent years with the deployment of robotics and software. The latest success story has been achieved in the field of scoring, which is the cutting of dough pieces to allow the bread to burst open in a controlled fashion during the baking process.
Products of artisan quality, but produced on an industrial scale: that is something that is getting closer and closer, especially if you listen to the stories of Teun Verkerk – Product Specialist, Bart Galjaard — Commercial Manager, Michiel Dix – Product Manager and Katja Loermans — Marketing Coordinator. They inform us about the developments in the field of the application of robotics in the production process of bread. No more dreams of what could be possible in future, but rather an actual robotic system that surpasses human actions, while offering a great deal of added value and efficiency.
Teun Verkerk is the specialist within Kaak when it comes to robotics. «There has been a sharp increase in applications for robotics in industrial bakeries, which is logical, because you are assured of flexibility, precision, a wide range of applications and multi-utility. Many of the applications are mainly in the end of line packaging, but on the processing side there are also many applications for automation by means of robots. Examples of robot applications in the Kaak lines can be found, for example, in the handling — storage and changing — of product carriers, which are often heavy and hot, and the depanning, loading and stacking of crates».
Nowadays there is also another very interesting application for robots in the production process, these are the so-called scoring robots. Bart Galjaard: “We all know how it works. Before the dough pieces are placed into the oven the baker cuts them with a knife in order to ensure a controlled bursting of the bread during the baking process. This is also how the baker puts a unique signature on the products. A good or bad scoring can either make or ruin the bread. We have automated this specific operation. Kaak has long been a supplier of the conventional linear scoring systems, which are mainly applied in mono-production lines that handle products which are often already properly positioned in their product carriers. By using a series of knives mounted on a bar the products are scored in a fixed pattern. Throughout the years the market has changed and there is an increasing demand for an enormous diversity of freestanding bread in all sizes, shapes and flavours, each with their own specific signature. It has been a major challenge to add that signature automatically, but five years ago in 2015 that we were able to successfully commission our first automated 3D vision-controlled scoring robots. Since then we have installed 170 of these robots to operate throughout the world in formations varying from 1 to 12 robots”.
3D Vision technique
When a baker makes an incision in a risen piece of dough, the baker acts on experience. His eye scans the bread and the human brain ensures that the signature is placed in the right place and at the right depth every time. Teun: “3D vision technique now makes it possible to automate the baker’s eye. In our scoring systems we implement the 3D vision technique where each individual product successively passes a camera, is scanned on form, position and orientation on the product carrier and is then assigned to a scoring robot which adds the desired signature to the product. By using a robot, we have in essence replaced the baker’s arm and hand. These are six-axis robots that are able to hold and move scoring equipment in all possible positions. This is important because by keeping the knife at a slight angle, the products will get a beautiful curled crust while baking, which will improve the development of the flavour and increase the popularity of the bread.” “Because dough is a living substance, the products don’t always have the same shape, which is why we use the 3D vision system,” Teun continues. “By using lasers, you precisely map the contours of each individual product and determine where the scoring should be made. The 3D vision system combined with the six-axis robots makes it possible to score each product at the correct spot and at the same depth every time. An additional advantage is that we have developed the software in-house. The robots therefor have been kept ‘as dumb as possible’ whilst the software with its complex and intelligent logarithms determines what they must do. As a result, we are not dependent on a third party and we can guarantee the high level of service we strive for across our entire product portfolio.”
The fact that each product and every baker has a different type of signature determines the kind of knife which is used, declares Michiel Dix. “The baker usually has his own knives to cut the products which may have belonged to his father or grandfather. Kaak has various scoring techniques which we can apply or recommend to our customers. Thanks to our many years of experience and knowledge of dough we can choose the right cutting tools or a combination of various tools for each application.” “For products which only need to be slightly scored to a depth of approximately 6 millimetres, we often choose the traditional knife/scalpel,” Teun adds. “If the customer wants to score products with very large pumpkin seeds we can offer a rotating knife that will cut the dough at 3000 RPM. We also use these rotating knives for very light and small products or for products which have to be scored to a depth of 20 millimetres (rigid types of dough).” “Scoring by means of water is another technique we use,” Bart says. “By using a water pressure aggregate that we designed in-house, water is sprayed through a nozzle under a constant and controlled pressure in a nice steady stream, which scores the dough. Kaak has applied this technique multiple times already in France and Spain. This is also a perfect solution in situations where you want to score bread that is positioned in product carriers where it is difficult to access the product carrier with a knife.“
Innovation in the making
A development we are currently working on is the 3D printing of dough cutting knives with an innovative design. Using the 3D metal printer from K3D, a Kaak subsidiary, Kaak is busy developing a practical and original application for weight reduction, part reduction, porous structures, improved performance and significant cost savings. The porous blade significantly improves the functionality because an air shield is created around the knife. This means the dough has no chance to adhere to the metal. Even very sticky dough can be cut without the
knife tearing the dough. The knife therefor stays clean and also lasts longer. Although we are currently still developing this option, we hope to be able to put this new type of knife into practice soon.
Every producer is looking for a higher efficiency level in his production process and with Kaak’s 3D vision cutting systems a higher return can indeed be achieved. “As soon as the products come out of the proofer they have to be cut quickly to be able to place them into the oven on time. This requires good organization in terms of timing and staffing. Looking at the wide range of different products and the associated cutting patterns that the customers want, we determine the number of robots required. The available floor space also determines the way we set up the robots in order to work efficiently. When talking about working efficiently we also look for ways to ease product changes. As soon as there is a product change on the line, the scoring robots will receive a command from our line control to start running according to a different recipe. We also have given serious thought about the setting of the robots on the HMI for a new product, for example. Solely entering numbers often does not say much and we therefore like to graphically visualise on the display how the incision will appear on the product. Making the incision just a bit deeper is only a small action, but it brings about a high level of customer convenience. This is completely in line with our philosophy of having only one operator making a choice on one central location and all other participants in the line will thereafter follow automatically. Optimal process control!”
There are many advantages to the 3D vision scoring system, as explained above. Another important aspect is of course a favourable return on investment (ROI). “The largest costs in the production process however are still the personnel costs. In terms of raw materials and quality most bakeries do not want to make concessions to be honest, which is logical, and margins are therefore under pressure. It is hard to avoid opting for some form automation at that point. We can make a simple calculation to illustrate this. With a production level of 5,000 pieces per hour you need an average of 3 people to cut the dough pieces. On an annual basis this is a considerable amount in salary costs. With our 3D vision cutting system an ROI of 1 to 3 years can be realized.”
Automation just for the sake of automation is not a goal in itself for Kaak, Teun, Bart, Michiel and Katja emphasise. “We are primarily bakers. We truly think as bakers and we have extensive knowledge and experience in the field. We know what happens with a dough piece during the production process and we keep improving our knowledge because we can automate to a great extent. The figures tell the true story: the large amount of data we collect during the overall production process allow us to see where things might go wrong, whether the dough is too wet or too weak, whether a product does not meet the baker’s quality standards, etc. This is something we can expand more and more. Automation is one of the fastest growing developments in the market and also within Kaak. We are so convinced of the added value of our 3D vision cutting systems that we want to integrate them in our Kaak Technology Centre as soon as possible. In this test bakery we share our latest technologies with customers in order to come to an optimal result. Anyone who is interested is welcome to bring their own recipes and come to our KTC in order to discover the advantages themselves.”
For more information:
Tel. +31 (0)315 339 111