Baked products

Applying Industry 4.0 to reduce energy consumption and bakery food waste

By Zsófia Kertész, Development Engineer - 14 December 2020

Bread is one of Britain’s most wasted foods. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, around 24 million slices of bread are thrown out by UK households every day – making up more than a third by weight of bakery food waste. But this isn’t an issue exclusive to the UK, we see the same story play out across Europe; 10% of bread and baked goods end up as waste after going stale or not being sold on the day of production.

What causes this volume of waste? Many different factors, but one that’s potentially under the industry’s ability to control lies within supply and demand.

The challenges of predicting demand

Consumers’ demands and expectations often determine how many baked products end up as waste, and these are influenced by several external factors including the weather, holidays, big events or time of the year. For example, bakers often expect a rise in demand for different types of baked goods around the Christmas period, and prepare accordingly. For bakers who plan production solely on experience, this seasonal change in demand is reliably easy to predict. However, it’s when you consider the sheer number of different variables and factors that a manufacturer must juggle that you realise the limitations of predicting demand from experience.

Small and medium-sized bakeries produce a large variety of products including buns, bagels, French bread, rolls, croissants and pastries that each come in different sizes with varying preparation and baking times and temperatures. These need to be put into an optimal sequence for the best use of the manufacturer’s production capacity, energy and labour. If production planning is based solely on experience, then the use of these resources will be far from optimal. This is where big data can help - after all, complicated challenges sometimes require complex solutions.

Digitalisation as a solution

Our team at Campden BRI Hungary is currently working on an EIT Food funded project to optimise bakery processes and predict actual consumer demand with computational tools. The project, known as PrO4Bake, will help small and medium-sized bakeries remain competitive by saving on costs associated with the production of baked goods.

How will the project achieve this?

The computational tools will allow manufacturers to adjust the amount and range of baked products to the demands of consumers, while adapting production planning and processes to best practice. This will make machine-powered processes more efficient which, in turn, will reduce raw material use, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. We can expect these outcomes to lower manufacturer’s production costs all while offsetting some of their carbon footprint.

With its contributions to accelerating Europe’s transition to a greener, healthier and more digital future, the PrO4Bake innovation project was recently nominated for the 2020 EIT Innovators Award. Play the video to see András Sebők, lead of the Hungarian team participating in the project, pitch the research following the nomination.

Applying computational tools

The project’s tools include artificial intelligence (AI) and digital twin. Many of us are gradually becoming familiar with AI, but for those unfamiliar with the latter, digital twin is a computer program that uses real-world data to create simulations that can predict how a product or process will perform.

These advanced tools may seem to some a little overkill for what appears to be relatively simple investigations (optimising processes and understanding product demand), but it’s the volume of the data involved which requires them. For example, the project’s prediction aspect alone will combine and analyse production and consumer purchasing data from seven countries while also factoring in external data such as weather forecasts.

Getting the food sector up to speed with Industry 4.0

The research is a large step forward towards helping the food and drink sector incorporate Industry 4.0 into their factories. Despite this sector being the largest manufacturing industry in the EU, it is far behind other industries when it comes to digital transformation. This is a big, unexploited opportunity because many of the available solutions in other industries can be adapted to solve food problems relatively easy. If you’re looking to implement these advanced technologies in your factory or would like to find out more about the project, please get in touch.

András Sebők

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