Olympic success leads to robot investment at Speciality Breads

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The installation of a second-user robotic system by Pacepacker has revolutionised the palletising of artisan loaves for Speciality Breads. Cutting palletising time in half, the robot is keeping up with the bakery’s daily production of 100,000 individual loaves from its brand new-state-of-the art £3million bakery.

Olympic success leads to robot investment at Speciality BreadsSpeciality Breads produces over 100 different types of handmade bread, from focaccia to brioche and ciabatta, at its Margate bakery. The loaves are freshly frozen and supplied to wholesalers throughout the UK, for distribution to restaurants, pubs, cafés and hotels.

Since winning the contract to supply bread and rolls to the London Olympics in 2012, the company has seen consecutive year on year growth of 30 per cent. To increase production capacity and drive NPD, in November 2015, the company opened a new £3 million bakery, just minutes away from its original bakery which opened nearly 20 years ago.

Peter Millen, MD of Speciality Breads explains: “It was vital that we invested in the latest infrastructure and resources to help us continue to drive further growth in the years to come.” Planning for the project began in 2014, and Speciality Breads took control of the new site in early 2015. One of the last pieces of the puzzle was finding a palletising system to stack cases of loaves onto pallets.

With no experience of palletising equipment, Speciality Breads asked Endoline Machinery, who had supplied upstream case erecting and sealing machinery, for a recommendation. Endoline put forward Pacepacker, an Essex-based designer of automated packing and palletising systems. Milllen says: “We hadn’t previously worked with Pacepacker but had heard some great things about their solutions and service so it was an easy decision to make.”

Given Speciality Breads’ budget and space constraints (this was the last piece of kit to go into the factory); Pacepacker designed a single static 4 × 3.5m cell incorporating its second user Blu-Robot. Launched by Pacepacker in 2011 the Blu-Robot range consists of re-conditioned robots, originating primarily from the automotive industry, which are typically half the cost of a new system, enabling the user to achieve a far quicker payback. Satisfied with this proposal, Speciality Breads placed its order in April 2015.

The installation was completed in August 2015, ahead of the opening in early November. Within the space of a week, Pacepacker had commissioned and installed the system, and trained the staff on how to use it, leaving Speciality Breads with a fully operational robotic palletiser. Millen recalls: “Pacepacker’s team worked very closely with our production manager and team to ensure the fitting process was seamless and we had all the support required to get it up and running with a minimum of fuss.”

Cases from the high care area enter the cell on a powered roller conveyor and are presented to the robot narrow edge leading. The floor-mounted six-axis FANUC S420 articulated robot arm picks the cardboard boxes and places them, in configuration, on the pallet, using a multi-cup vacuum gripper. Once full, the pallet is removed from the cell on a motorised pallet truck, and an operator puts a new pallet in its place.

Millen says that the investment in the new bakery has allowed Speciality Breads to increase its production capacity four-fold whilst helping to modernise certain parts of the business and improve staff skills.

Now, between them, the two bakeries produce over 100,000 individual loaves every day. The robotic palletiser is easily able to cope with this volume, which equates to approximately 50 pallet loads per day.

For Speciality Breads, automating this part of the process has been a revelation, according to Millen. He says: “We were previously palletising manually, which was time consuming and a lot slower. The new system has revolutionised the process, making it easier and quicker to get pallets ready for delivery.” Millen expects the robot to pay for itself within 3 years, but says the business is already reaping the benefits of the investment through more efficient palletising.

He notes: “The new system has cut the palletising time in half so it’s already paying dividends and helping us to increase production and drive new business and growth. The time saved on making up pallets, has enabled our bakers to spend more time on what they do best – baking the best bread.”

More information about second-user robotic systems can be found at

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