J. Skinner Baking Co. of Omaha, Neb., is one of the largest family bakeries in the United States. The company produces more than 300 million pastries a year, including the popular Danish patties, known as Danish in the United States. The company’s bakery the products are distributed through retail and food service outlets as well as co-packing services across North America. One of J. Skinner’s specialties is puff pastry, which is used to make his Danish cakes. Rolling refers to the art of creating a perfect dough by rolling and folding it repeatedly instead of kneading it.
“Although most of our products are handcrafted, we understand, of course, the enormous importance of new automation technologies in the bakery industry,” said David Skinner, Managing Director of J. Skinner Baking. “These play a major role in continuously improving the high quality of our products. An important step was therefore the investment in automation technology for our packaging process.
To automate and thereby simplify the packaging of his handmade danishes, J. Skinner worked with a packaging equipment supplier. Gerhard Schubert GmbH, which has developed a customized solution that can be integrated into the available space without restricting existing production processes, while ensuring rapid and economical management of unplanned machine downtime by adding a bypass function.
Schubert’s all-in-one modular packaging solution consists of four integrated packaging machines, equipped with a number of robots. The packaging process begins when the baking sheets, each containing four coffee cakes, are transported directly from the oven to the packaging line. The hotplates are fed into the Schubert system by an F2 robot with two-axis articulated arm and placed on a step-by-step chain, which transports the hotplates to the transfer area. There, the Danes are lifted from the sheets from below by an NC (numerical control) unit and then placed on the output conveyor by another F2 robot. A third robot F2 transports the emptied sheets to an existing sheet washing unit.
After being removed from the baking sheets, the cakes are decorated and transported to the Schubert picking line via a spiral cooler. There, a spreading unit separates the cakes for individual quality control before the four-axis and pick-and-place F4 robots place the Danish individually in shells. “This step is not about perfect positioning. In fact, it gives the system a high degree of flexibility and adaptability for future product changes, ”says Julian Conway, Commercial Accounts Manager at Schubert North America.
The grabs containing the danishes are then sealed, labeled and inspected by existing equipment before being packaged by two Schubert case packers in boxes of different sizes ready to be shipped.
A unique addition to the packaging system is a built-in bypass function that removes the danishes from the baking sheets in the event of an unexpected machine shutdown. “We hadn’t even thought of such a bypass feature when we first presented our ideas and wishes to Schubert,” says Skinner. “But once Schubert made us realize the benefits of an integrated bypass system, we immediately recognized the added value. “
To avoid sheet congestion in the future, the system allows sheets to continue to flow smoothly through the system to a higher level into the machine in the event of a failure.
Since installing the new packaging system, J. Skinner has achieved line speeds of 160 cakes / min, 97% efficiency on the gripper line and 98% efficiency on both case packers.
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