by Glen Thompson, chief editor
By upgrading its manual packaging operation with a fully automated system, Tampa, Fla.-based Alessi Bakery was able to increase productivity by 25%. Already a national wholesale pastry bakery, Alessi is planning its expansion into China and other Asian markets.
Baking industry professionals are getting ready to converge on Chicago's McCormick Place for Pack Expo International, scheduled for October 29 to November 2. The show will feature more than 350 exhibitors displaying the widest possible range of packaging innovations.
Attendees at this year's event will include representatives from Tampa, Fla.-based Alessi Bakery. They likely will be among the first to arrive and last to leave, because last year's show proved to be a catalyst for changes at the bakery that resulted in a 25% increase in productivity.
Alessi Bakery, a third-generation family-owned business founded in 1912, distributes its pastries to supermarket chains, mass merchant clubs and independent retailers throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean islands. Plans are in the works to expand the bakery's reach across the Pacific to China and other Asian markets.
A decade ago, Alessi Bakery primarily operated as a retail bakery business. However, as local supermarkets began opening in-store bakeries, the company shifted its focus to the production of thaw-and-sell baked goods for private label use in supermarkets. The company grew its business by more than 160% since 2000.
Despite its rapid growth, packaging for all the company's baked goods was performed by hand or through the use of semi-manual tooling. Horstmann concluded that Alessi Bakery needed to fully automate its packaging operations to continue to meet customer demand.
"Our manual packaging operations could not keep pace with our growth and productivity needs," says Gary Horstmann, Alessi Bakery's chief operating officer. "I knew we had to equip ourselves with new, automated technology, so I decided to go to Pack Expo to do some research."
Horstmann purchased a new top and bottom labeling system that is compact and features a fully automated, split-belt conveyor system with two adjustable label applicators. The machine is compatible with a wide variety of applications and product sizes.
Horstmann also purchased a laser coder at the 2005 Pack Expo. The machine's small size and configuration make it adaptable to an extensive array of production lines without requiring significant modifications to existing packaging processes, a bakery spokesperson says.
Roughly 80% of Alessi Bakery products are packaged with the two machines. The equipment has allowed Alessi Bakery to significantly increase packaging productivity while freeing staff from the manual packaging process.
"The new machinery has not only allowed my company to use our packaging team more efficiently, but also to increase productivity by about 25%," Horstmann says. "We have already seen a powerful return on our investment."