Bakers Journal

Is there AI in your bakery’s future?

June 5, 2024
By Mark Floerke

In this special guest column, Mark FLoerke discusses how automation and AI can help operators with production and operations efficiency, product innovation and customer experiences

Bakery Showcase in Toronto in May was a forum for several manufacturers and suppliers of automated equipment and robotic packaging systems, among them Fritsch Multivac.

In the ever-evolving landscape of the bakery industry, technological advancements are playing an increasingly pivotal role in transforming traditional baking processes. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) applications have emerged as powerful tools for bakers and bakery operators, revolutionizing everything from production efficiency to customer experience. In this article we’ll explore some of the innovative ways in which automation and AI are reshaping the bakery sector.

Streamlining Production Processes

One of the primary benefits of automation in bakeries is the streamlining of production processes. Automated systems can handle tasks such as mixing, kneading, shaping and baking with precision and consistency, reducing the need for manual labour and minimizing the risk of human error. A step as simple as adding and using a timer on your mixers can be partial automation to ensure consistencies, while freeing up the operator to move on with other tasks and not forget about the mixer. Other examples include automated dough dividers and rounders that can accurately portion and shape dough, ensuring uniformity in the final products.

Moreover, automated ovens equipped with advanced technology can regulate temperature and humidity levels, resulting in perfectly baked goods every time. By automating these key aspects of the baking process, bakery operators can increase efficiency, reduce waste and maintain a high level of product quality.

When one considers the challenges in finding and training new staff, automation is a very profitable as well as productive investment. Even certain types of equipment that previously were only available on a very large scale, are now practical for even mid-size bakeries, such as machines that can crack, and even separate, fresh shell eggs.


Enhancing product innovation

AI applications are also driving product innovation in the bakery industry. By analyzing consumer preferences, market trends and ingredient formulations, AI-powered algorithms can generate insights that inform the development of new recipes and flavour profiles. For instance, AI can identify emerging flavour combinations or dietary preferences, enabling bakeries to create innovative products that cater to changing consumer demands.

Furthermore, AI can optimize ingredient usage and recipe formulations to improve cost-effectiveness and sustainability. By identifying opportunities for ingredient substitution or recipe modification, AI-driven solutions can help bakery operators maximize resource efficiency while maintaining product quality and taste.

The important thing to always remember is that, in order to get good answers, one needs to formulate effective questions.

Computer software is of course also part of the AI opportunities. Formulation software can assist with optimizing formulas to calculate nutritional targets, or even with adjusting ingredient cost impacts. The important thing to always remember is that, in order to get good answers, one needs to formulate effective questions.

Personalizing customer experiences

In today’s digital age, personalized customer experiences are paramount, and AI is playing a key role in enabling bakery operators to deliver tailored offerings to their customers. Through data analytics and machine learning algorithms, bakeries can gather insights into customer preferences, purchase history and behaviour patterns, allowing them to customize product recommendations, pro-motions and marketing campaigns.

For example, AI-powered recommendation engines can suggest complementary products based on a customer’s past purchases or preferences, enhancing cross-selling opportunities and driving customer engagement. Similarly, personalized marketing communications, such as targeted email campaigns or social media ads, can be tailored to individual customer segments, increasing the likelihood of conversion and retention.

I can remember the days of tracking product sales and dollar sales in a daily journal. Noting the weather, special events, customer celebrations, special requests and similar. This historical record could be helpful in planning for the following year. Now imagine not only having that data, but also the data from the whole year and previous years to analyze in seconds and project your production requirements and special seasonal recommendations, for inventory ordering, staffing, and thrilling your customers.

Improving operational efficiency

Beyond production and customer engagement, automation and AI applications can also optimize various aspects of bakery operations, including inventory management, supply chain logistics and workforce scheduling. AI-powered algorithms can analyze historical sales data, seasonal trends and external factors such as weather patterns to forecast demand and optimize inventory levels accordingly.

Moreover, AI-driven predictive maintenance systems can monitor equipment performance in real time, detecting potential issues before they escalate into costly downtime or disruptions. By proactively identifying maintenance needs and scheduling repairs or replacements, bakery operators can minimize equipment downtime, maximize productivity and reduce operational costs. There are several companies that have sensor and software systems already in place for predictive maintenance systems, saving bakeries thousands of dollars in down time and repairs.

To sum up

Automation and artificial intelligence applications are revolutionizing the bakery industry, empowering bakery operators to enhance production efficiency, drive product innovation, personalize customer experiences and optimize operational processes. By leveraging these advanced technologies, bakeries can stay ahead of the curve in a highly competitive market landscape, delivering superior products and services that meet the evolving needs and preferences of today’s consumers. As automation and AI continue to evolve, the future of baking looks brighter than ever, promising a new era of innovation and growth for the bakery sector.

Mark Floerke has been actively working in the baking industry for 49 years. He started out as a pastry cook apprentice in Germany, and then moved on to various opportunities honing his craft in bakeries, pastry shops, cafés and convention centres. With 20 years of experience in the field, his interests to learn more and share more grew. This led to spending time as an instructor in community colleges and other teaching forums. At this time Mark also embarked on what would be a 25-year career with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), in technical service support, product development and research. Now Mark enjoys the scenery and friendly community of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, while continuing to offer consulting assistance to the baking industry and hosting the monthly Baked In Science podcast for BAKERpedia.

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