Minebea Intec outlines challenges and solutions for bakery goods production

MINEBEA Intec has revealed details of the manufacturer’s solutions for the fast-growing bakery sector.

The challenges posed by this segment include trends like consumers’ desire for healthier, vegan or vegetarian products, and the clear labelling of ingredients on packaging. Producers also have to contend with increasing environmental requirements.

Minebea Intec explained that before the end consumer can buy baked goods, there are a lot of processes to complete, which can ‘roughly’ be divided into four steps. First, the raw materials are delivered. The production is the second step, carried out manually or by automated means. This step is made up of individual processes including dosing, mixing, kneading the ingredients, adding them to the moulds for baking, cooling and eventually cutting the baked goods. The products then need to be packaged up, during which various inspections and checkweighing processes can be carried out. The final step is to dispatch the goods.

With demand for food growing globally, Minebea Intec said a much higher level of automation is required. High-precision, reliable technology is needed to inspect baked goods to guarantee the quantities required at a consistently high level of quality. Silo weighing solutions and floor scales record the exact quantities during the production phases, while truck scales perform the same task at goods receipt and goods issue.

Checkweighers record the product weight and metal and X-ray inspection systems ensure the end products don’t contain anything other than the desired ingredients.

Willy-Sebastian Metzger, director marketing, strategy and business development at Minebea Intec, said, “With our unique portfolio of products and services, we offer a wide range of solutions worldwide for this special market, covering everything from receipt of the raw materials to the finished end product.”

Metzger provided two examples of the X-ray inspection systems currently available from the company: the Dymond and Dylight systems. “The X-ray inspection systems in our Dymond series are extremely versatile and are ideal for inspecting packaged bakery goods at the end of the production process, for instance. The systems reliably detect foreign objects in the product and enables hollow spaces to be detected in products and check whether the product contents fill the entire packaging.”

Whether the food products are dry or liquid, in cartons, bags or portion packs makes no difference to these systems. To meet the individual requirements of each production line, Minebea Intec offers three different Dymond models with belt widths of 200mm to 800mm. Multi-track applications with up to eight tracks are also possible.

With Dymond Bulk, Minebea Intec has developed an X-ray inspection system for bulk materials that enables raw materials like vegetables, nuts, dried fruit and grains to be checked for foreign objects at goods receipt. “The X-ray inspection also helps to protect downstream machines, like grinders, by monitoring goods that enter the production process straight from the field, as it were,” Metzger added.

Described as a ‘genuine plug and play solution’, the X-ray inspection system Dylight offers all the functions required to inspect packaged food in a compact unit and is often used as an entry-level model. “Our Dylight system carries out similar tasks to the Dymond models and offers an intuitive solution thanks to its extremely compact design and intuitive, time-saving operation,” Metzger revealed. Dylight models take up just one metre of space, easing their incorporation into existing lines.

Packaged bakery goods are checkweighed after the production process is complete to make sure the product weight is correct and the product is complete. Minebea Intec said many bakery goods producers check products using random samples, which are checkweighed using static scales. One solution that Minebea Intec offers for this task is Combics – a series of verifiable industrial bench scales that can be tailored to the required maximum capacities and resolutions. The Combics series also offers a single-workstation solution for the pre-packaging checking of bakery goods – particularly useful in smaller-scale processes. Automatic statistics, printouts and graphical evaluations on the scale display help users with their day-to-day tasks. This solution can also be adapted if production is being expanded or integrated into a network solution, such as SPC@Enterprise.

Minebea Intec offers a variety of checkweighers, which can be configured in accordance with individual requirements and, if customers have very specific requirements, customised versions can be produced. Metzger highlighted the Flexus and Essentus product families. “With Flexus, we are offering users high-resolution load cell technology that enables maximum throughput with absolute precision even at high process speeds of up to 2.6 m/s.” The name itself reflects the flexibility of the machines. This is particularly useful when needing to adapt line configurations quickly for transitions between products.

“Thanks to its intelligent design, the Flexus enables lines to be converted with minimal effort,” Metzger added. “The width of the conveyor belt is variable and the height of the system can also be adapted to new conditions very quickly thanks to its adjustable feet. The upper frame structure is even designed to allow additional modules or inspection solutions to be mounted, for instance. What’s more, the checkweigher is designed in accordance with the stringent hygienic design directives of the EHEDG.”

The latest addition to the Minebea Intec inspection portfolio is Essentus. This comes with various options so can be tailored to individual application profiles.

“Essentus is an innovative solution and meets the needs of our customers who have clearly defined requirements for these systems,” Metzger stated. “We are often asked for a simple, inexpensive entry-level model that enables reliable, precise check weighing and classification on the packaging line. That’s where the Essentus efficiency, which offers the essential weighing functions, comes in. For customers who require more, the Essentus performance offers a checkweigher with advanced capabilities.” Metzger revealed that verifiable Essentus variants will be available in the near future. “We will then increase the number of potential applications even further and quite significantly.”

Minebea Intec commented that related software is another important factor in the production of bakery goods. The statistical process control software SPC@Enterprise helps manufacturers to ‘guarantee’ product quality, food safety and productivity, the manufacturer said. The current release of SPC@Enterprise 4.0 offers provides a tool that combines the logging of samples and automatic in-process checks for the food industry. It also enables networking of various equipment and systems from Minebea Intec and other suppliers, ‘rapid’ process control thanks to a powerful monitoring programme, the creation of production and verification statistics, and data backup options to minimise the risk of data loss. “SPC@Enterprise is a powerful piece of software for pre-packaging checking and statistical process control. We are constantly updating it and expanding its functionality,” said Metzger. “Our service customers enjoy the added benefit of automatic updates under their contract.”

Release 3.5 of ProRecipe XT offers bakeries recipe management software that can be used for manual formulation and weighing, as well as automated processes. Minebea Intec added that the software’s menu guidance helps make processes more ‘efficient and reliable’, while the documentation of the weighing process and reporting options improve transparency in the recipe process. The entry of information using bar code readers also prevents potential errors caused by manual entry. Both SPC@Enterprise and ProRecipe XT are able to communicate with ERP and MES systems via interfaces and can be integrated in existing structures and systems.

“In the production of bakery goods, like in the food industry as a whole, many products involve very specific requirements throughout large parts of the production process, such as for product handling,” Metzger said. “In situations where our standard systems no longer cover these requirements, our Global Solutions Department will advise users, and we will then come up with customer-specific solutions that meet all of that user’s specific requirements. It goes without saying that we always observe the stringent hygienic design requirements in all our systems for the bakery goods industry, which ensures simple cleaning processes, among other things.”