MARCO’s Trac-IT Recipe Formulation Module is helping leading UK bakery group Greggs plc meet the rapidly growing demand from the million plus hungry customers it supplies each day with breads, sandwiches, savouries and cakes. MARCO filling systems are now active across 9 of the company’s production facilities across the UK, streamlining their recipe formulation and filling processes. The systems have also brought huge cost savings to Gregg’s large scale factory operations through increased productivity, increased automation, and smarter weighing systems.
Greggs was founded as a family bakery business on Tyneside in the 1930’s by John Gregg. From its humble beginnings, Greggs has now grown to become the UK’s leading specialist retailer of bakery and takeaway snacking products. The company, which also owns the Bakers Oven brand, now has around 1671 shops and 9 regional manufacturing centres, generating an annual turnover in excess of £804 million. This expansion has continued to be based on the highly successful regional principle of serving a cluster of stores from a central bakery, thereby achieving important efficiencies which can be passed onto the customer.
There is an emphasis throughout the group on constantly improving the quality, consistency, value for money and sheer ‘enjoyability’ of their products. However, as the range of goods and outlets have steadily increased, controlling and keeping track of the many different recipes at the regional bakeries has become more and more complex. The adding of ingredients is a manual process and keeping a check on the amounts of each ingredient going into a particular batch, together with ensuring that all the required ingredients have been added is a complex procedure.
As Simon Wales of Greggs points out: “We had been looking for over three years for a suitable recipe system which would integrate directly with our main AS400 computer system and we were determined to find the right one. When we eventually talked with Marco we realised that their system would provide exactly what we were looking for.”
By listening to what was required, MARCO has developed a range of the most up to date factory floor profitability systems designed specially for the Gregg’s facilities. MARCO CEO, Murray Hilborne is clear on MARCO’s philosophy, “We know that the key to successful recipe formulation is providing the optimum blend of integration and control. Although we have an extensive range of standard modules, we tailor all our hardware and software to each application to meet individual client requirements precisely.”
Following initial trial installations at four bakeries, all nine of Greggs regional bakeries, together with its savoury centre and Pettigrews Bakery, now operate MARCO’s Trac-IT Recipe Control Modules. At the heart of these are smart scale DataMaster workstations. The DataMaster is a PC based workstation, which has been designed specifically to meet the diverse needs of today’s processing industries. The DataMaster satisfies the demands being placed on companies such as Greggs for greater traceability and accountability for their products, producing the rules and guidelines for any ingredient or recipe filling. The workstation has two separate scale platforms with different capacities, thus allowing both large and small amounts of ingredients to be weighed with optimum accuracy. The smart weighing devices can be used for mixing products including powders, pastes, granular materials and liquids. The stainless steel construction and clean lines of the DataMaster units provide a fully hygienic working environment, while the sealing integrity ensures that they can withstand all the rigours of cleaning. Lockable castors on the bottom of the workstation allow the units to be easily moved to wherever they are needed in the packing line.
Based on industry standard operating platforms, the system can be readily configured to integrate with all in-house business systems and ensures a clean and simple interface with operators, plant and existing work procedures. Details on specific recipes are transmitted from the central computer to these workstations. The operator can then select the correct amount and type of each ingredient by keyboard entry or using a bar code scanner. The system has the ability to size recipes for constantly changing demands and will register if ingredients are missed out or wrongly added. Although the workstations are fully digital, operators also have an analogue bar graph which indicates weight change. It has been shown that this is a highly effective method for displaying and controlling operator initiated filling processes. Weights below the target are shown as amber, changing to green in the acceptance zone. Where possible the system will recalculate a batch if too much of a particular ingredient is accidentally added.
As Simon Wales concludes: “We had spent a long time looking for a recipe formulation system and were initially a little sceptical of MARCO’s claims. However, we had no reason to be concerned. MARCO’s professional approach and attention to detail has provided us with a system which integrates seamlessly with the main computer system. We can now control all our production scheduling from a central location and stock records can be automatically updated as product is used.”