Processing Magazine

Vacuum system helps cupcake wholesaler reduce energy consumption by 30 percent

March 6, 2006

From traditional sheet cakes to cupcakes and cookies, it’s no secret that demand for thaw-and-sell desserts is at an all-time high. People are always on the go, working more than ever and who has time to go to a specialty bakery, let alone bake? But it’s not just consumers who recognize the improved quality and timesaving convenience of frozen desserts. In-store bakers, food service chefs and retailers also see the laborsaving value, easy innovation, and flexibility that these products offer.

Booming Business for Cupcake Distributor Freed’s Bakery

One company that has benefited significantly from the rapidly growing frozen baked goods market is Freed’s Bakery, LLC, based in Manchester, NH. Founded in 1921 as a small retail bakery, Freed’s quickly recognized the market need for convenient high quality desserts and became fully devoted to the wholesale manufacturing of frozen, finished cupcakes in 1985.

Understanding the Process

As one might imagine, there are many steps required before a cupcake lands on the shelf of your local convenience store or grocery market. Manufacturing Freed’s cupcakes entails several important material handling steps that have been automated over the years and are now performed consistently around the clock.

The process begins with an employee loading a 12-cup tin onto one of four conveyor lines. The tin is then transported to a machine that uses vacuum-powered mechanical arms to “pick-up and place” an individual paper liner into each cup. Batter is then dropped into the lined cups, and the trays are conveyed to the oven for baking. After the cupcakes are finished baking, they are cooled on racks and then transported to another conveyor system to be packaged.

Challenge: Produce More Cupcakes Using Less Compressed Air

Freed’s Bakery recently updated and optimized its manufacturing efficiencies. Specifically, Freed’s wanted to reduce costly compressed air consumption during material handling processes at the company’s production facility.

The company’s existing vacuum system relied on conventional, single-stage ejector pumps, which consumed a high level of compressed air, leading to expensive energy costs and reduced productivity. Additionally, the system was quite loud and required regular maintenance.

After a thorough evaluation of manufacturing processes, Freed’s decided to replace its existing vacuum pumps with newer, more energy efficient technology from PIAB.

“Vacuum is a critical component in most material handling applications, especially in automated material handling applications,” said Bill Woomer of AIR, Inc., a New England distributor of pneumatic automation components. Air, Inc. worked with Freed’s to retrofit the company’s existing vacuum system with components from PIAB, a leader in developing innovative vacuum technology for use in automated material handling and factory automation processes. Air, Inc. was brought into the project by Applied Industrial Technologies (AIT) of Cleveland, Ohio, a large-scale distributor of industrial, fluid power, and engineered products and systems.

The Solution: PIAB P3010 Vacuum Pump Based on COAX® technology

In order to fully optimize energy efficiency, AIR, Inc. replaced the existing pumps with forty-eight PIAB P3010 multi-stage ejector vacuums pumps on the mechanical arms of the four production lines. Because the PIAB P3010 pumps are so compact and easy to install, the retrofitting of Freed’s production line took AIR, Inc. only a few hours.

“It was important for the customer to be up and running in a short amount of time, to avoid machine downtime,” said Woomer.

Woomer choose P3010 because of the pump’s internal design, which allows it to make maximum use of compressed air to create the vacuum. Additionally, the compact size of the P3010 played a factor because it can be fitted close to the point-of-use.

“Because the pump is made of aluminum and weighs only 3 ounces, it can be installed easily into whichever location along the arm that allows it to be most efficient.”

Additionally, Woomer recommended PIAB’s P3010 because of its quiet operation results from a lack of moving parts, which has the added benefit of no need for lubrication and no risk of static build-up or sparks. “With no moving parts, the pumps do not produce any vibration, which also makes them quieter and more accurate,” said Woomer.

However, Woomer insists the major benefit of using PIAB is its proprietary COAX technology. “COAX makes for a smaller, more efficient, highly reliable component that lends itself to integration in a modular system,” he said. “Additionally, COAX pumps are capable of handling porous and uneven surface applications, which are common in bakery environments,” said Woomer.

Results: Quieter Working Environment and Reduced Compressed Air Consumption

Since the 48 pumps were installed, Freed’s engineers claim PIAB has easily met the need to reduce compressed air consumption. In just a few months, the company has observed significant increases in production with a reduced cycle time and a much quieter working environment.

“The P3010 installation has translated to a 30% energy savings,” said Woomer. “The customer is very happy and plans to integrate additional COAX technology into other manufacturing processes.”