Potential post-Brexit labour shortages are prompting suppliers to find kit that will handle more delicate tasks, and equipment manufacturers are stepping up to the challenge.

Just as bakers must keep up with consumer demand for new and exciting products, equipment manufacturers must keep up with bakers’ demands for kit that’s versatile and adaptable. 

And in the extruders and depositors arena, it would appear they are doing just that. The Polin Multidrop range, for example, is becoming more advanced to meet the ever-changing needs of its users. 

“With continuous development in the programming, the product variations are endless,” says Ann Wells, group marketing director at supplier Brook Food.

“In recent years we’ve installed machines that have allowed for the table to move vertically during the deposit enabling stacked end products, for example.

Another new feature, she says, is the option of a conveyor bed rather than a solid base, allowing the machine to be integrated into small production lines much like industrial depositing systems.

One of Unifiller’s latest machines is the RP depositor, which uses a unique internal rotary piston design, and is held together with two stainless steel shafts. Only two knobs need to be removed to completely disassemble the entire machine in less than 20 seconds.

“It is designed to provide maximum efficiency and safety through robust and strong design while providing greater production yield and accurate weight control,” says Stewart Macpherson, Unifiller Systems VP of sales and marketing.

One of the major trends shaping equipment development is demand for small products (see above), as is use of stiffer doughs containing large inclusions of fruit, nuts and chocolate chunks.

Macpherson says this has led Unifiller to produce machines that can handle a wide variety of mixes, but still maintain product integrity and accuracy. He highlights the Uni-Depositor, which is built to extrude and portion products such as cookies, health bars, fudge brownie dough and roll fondants.

Depositors may also have a big role to play if, as many in the industry fear, Brexit leads to further shortages of labour.

Wells at Brook Food believes the Polin Multidrop depositor can reduce the need for skilled labour. “It does this by being able to produce any product that’s traditionally handled through a piping bag. In addition, with its sheeting and wire-cut facilities, the one machine can easily replace staff while remaining consistent.”

Given the vital and evolving role of depositors, many suppliers and manufacturers are working together to develop the equipment bakers want.

“We work alongside Polin to develop machines for bespoke applications – whether it be to suit a customer’s existing tray or tin, or a particular program or function that needs to be performed,” says Wells.

Looking to the future, robotics and AI (artificial intelligence) are set to become a bigger part of the depositor and extruder arena.

Unifiller says it is incorporating AI technology more frequently into its designs. “Occasionally, Unifiller machines are required to hit a moving target, such as Danish pastries on baking pans, and apply a fruit filling onto the centre of the dough,” says Macpherson.

“This is achieved by incorporating laser and vision sensors to identify the position of the randomly placed pastries, then using a robot armed with a depositing nozzle.”

And, as Mike Wilson of ABB Robotics suggests in this issue (see p16), robotics is one thing that can help businesses stay a step ahead in Britain’s fast-changing bakery market.

CASE STUDY: More Food, Chichester, West Sussex

More Food opted for a Polin Multidrop as a replacement for its existing Omega depositor.

The equipment is primarily used for sheeting full trays of shortbread as a base for several of the company’s core products, including caramel shortbread.

“We shopped around for the best alternative, and the Polin Multidrop offered great consistency and reliability – essential to our decision,” explains More Food MD Jayson Scheib.

He adds that the business has found the equipment versatile, which was one of the factors that helped More Food make the decision to go with this model.

“Our product range is growing and to be able to see how flexible this machine can be, with capabilities for many applications, is brilliant,” says Scheib. “We’ve had consistent results with it already and there’s capacity for much more use in the future, providing for labour savings.”

Smaller products, faster speeds

With pressure on retailers and suppliers to reduce the sugar content of products, interest is growing for smaller-sized baked goods that contain less sugar than their larger counterparts.

Rademaker has seen rising demand for smaller products at higher capacities, and has developed a high-speed depositor. “A standard depositor can’t always keep up with the production speed. Therefore our high-speed depositor is ideal,” says marketing communications manager Marc van Rooijen.

Rademaker’s high-speed depositor can cope with continuous and discontinuous dosing of liquid and semi-liquid fillings, running up to 300 strokes per minute in discontinuous mode.

“As the prices of ingredients continue to skyrocket, portion control is more important than ever before,” says Unifiller Systems VP of sales and marketing Stewart Macpherson. “We are seeing the need for smaller portion sizes for sweet delicacies, such as almond macarons, mini cupcakes and brownie bites.

“We offer a versatile high-speed multi piston depositor – the Multi Station. This is ideal for mass-producing a wide range of smaller cakes and desserts. It is PLC touchscreen controlled and has a servo-driven portioning mechanism for greater accuracy and operator control.”

Ann Wells, group marketing director at Brook Food, says small products are not a problem for Polin: “This range of depositors doesn’t have a problem with small deposits, whether a drop of jam onto a biscuit ready for sandwiching, or using the wire-cut facility to produce bite-sized products.”

New supplier targets artisan bakery market

Depositor Solutions is a new company supplying a range of depositors, transfer pumps, decorating and check weigh equipment for the artisan bakery market.

It is headed by Gary Bond, who has years of experience in the industry, latterly with Turbo Systems, and says the new business is about offering affordable equipment to deliver optimum return on investment.

Currently the firm supplies Beldos and Edenweigh kit.

“The equipment from Beldos is designed very much with the end user in mind,” explains Bond. “It is simple to use, clean and maintain and it’s all off the shelf, including a large range of application nozzles and fittings.

Depositor Solutions also represents Edenweigh in the UK, alongside owner Chris Terry.

“Edenweigh has a portfolio of servo depositors and check weigh systems that provide the user with great efficiency,” adds Bond.
“The depositors and check weigh systems can be used on their own or can be connected to provide the optimum package for accuracy.”