Craft bakery reaps benefits of offline label verification system

CRAFT bakery Geary’s has made the switch from manual verification checks to an offline Dimaco label verification system.

The family-run business, established in 1906, produces one million loaves and more than five million rolls weekly.

In 2018, the firm received £15 million of investment to support its development of a new purpose-built factory in Leicester. To keep pace with exponential growth and new retailer stockists, a ‘robust’ label verification solution that could scale up alongside the bakery’s expansion plans was required. 

In May 2022, Geary’s technical manager Karen Walters started to scope out options. One quick web search later and Dimaco was in the door. By July, the CapEx budget was confirmed and two offline semi-automated OCR Veri-PACK label verification vision units together with a Veri-CENTRAL SQL server were installed at the Barrow-upon-Soar site. 

In March, a replica solution, comprising another two units and database, went live at Geary’s second site in Glenfield.

Given the multiple variants of craft bakery products, comprising bloomers, rustics, malted loaves and the latest – Jason’s Sourdough, named after the company’s master baker and executive director Jason Geary – the semi-automated offline solution catered to the immediate needs of the business.

The risk of mislabelling is generally higher on shorter product runs involving multiple packaging types, noted Dimaco sales director Steve Wainwright. He added, “Geary’s bake in small batches. Because of these short-run lines, there tends to be multiple product changeovers per day. Geary’s was also dealing with varied packaging shapes, flexible packaging, labels on sticky bags, as well as closure tags systems.

“Coupled with supplying multiple products to multiple customers, manual label checks was fast becoming untenable. Ensuring that the label used on each and every product matches the work order, printing them in real-time to ensure there’s no mix up, and linking this to the database and live MRP system, helps to significantly reduce human errors.”

Karen Walters explained that by eliminating the paperwork element and moving to batch checks performed at the same intervals on two Veri-PACK units, both bakery sites have observed ‘significant’ savings. 

“Paper records are always more vulnerable to being misplaced,” she added. “They are also time consuming to retrieve. In the event of a label recall or audit, speed is of the essence.”

At the first site, as well as the subsequent second location, Geary’s placed the two offline Veri-PACK units close to the product lines. Every half hour, at the start and end of each product changeover, and after a line stop exceeding five minutes, a user inserts the pack into a Veri-PACK unit, logs in and electronically verifies all the label data against the latest MRP production data files. An image is taken and the results are stored in a Veri-CENTRAL database, enabling auditable records to be called up when required.

If the data is wrong, the line is immediately stopped. 

Designed to supersede manual paper-based label checks and detect label and artwork discrepancies ‘faster and more accurately’ than the human eye, the Dimaco offline system could provide the stepping stone for Geary’s to automate labelling verification in the future. As a scalable solution comprising compatible Dimaco technology, if Geary’s packaging formats change in the future, any modifications to the label verification process is feasible.