When Leicestershire craft bakery Geary’s sought a retail-compliant label verification system, they called upon industry specialist JentonDimaco.
Producing one million loaves and more than five million rolls weekly, as part of their dual-site modernisation plan, the family-run firm has now made the switch from labour and time-intensive manual verification checks to an efficient and future-proof offline Dimaco label verification system.
Established in 1906, Geary’s has remained family-run throughout four generations. In 2018, the master baking firm received £15m of investment to support its development of a new, purpose-built factory in Leicester. Offering a wide range of SKUs, the high-quality BRCGS-approved and AA+ artisan bakery realised that in order to keep pace with its exponential growth and new retailer stockists, a robust label verification solution that could scale up alongside their expansion plans was required.
Now stocked by most British supermarkets, including Tesco, Waitrose, M&S, Ocado, and its longstanding biggest customer, Aldi – in May 2022 Geary’s Technical Manager Karen Walters started to scope out the company’s future label verification options. One quick web search later and Dimaco was in the door. By July, the CapEx budget was confirmed and two offline semi-automated OCR Veri-PACK label verification vision units together with a Veri-CENTRAL SQL server were installed at the Barrow-upon-Soar site. Indicative of their satisfaction, this March, a replica solution, comprising another two units and database, went live at Geary’s Glenfield site.
Given the multiple variants of craft bakery products, comprising bloomers, rustics, malted loaves and the latest – Jason’s Sourdough, named after the company’s master baker and Executive Director Jason Geary – the semi-automated offline solution catered to the bakeries’ immediate needs.
The risk of mislabelling is generally higher on shorter product runs involving multiple packaging types, notes Dimaco Sales Director Steve Wainwright. He expands: “Geary’s bake in small batches. Because of these short-run lines, there tends to be multiple product changeovers per day. Geary’s was also dealing with varied packaging shapes, flexible packaging, labels on sticky bags, as well as closure tags systems. Coupled with supplying multiple products to multiple customers, manual label checks was fast becoming untenable.
“Ensuring that the label used on each and every product matches the work order, printing them in real-time to ensure there’s no mix up, and linking this to the database and live MRP system, helps to significantly reduce human errors,” adds Steve.
Proofing labels, gathering physical copies at regular intervals – hourly, at the start of production and for every bread batch changeover – had reached an unsustainable tipping point for Geary’s. It was proving to be both labour intensive, challenging to resource and generated volumes of worksheets which had to be archived for years, reflects Geary’s Technical Manager Karen Walters. Simply by eliminating the paperwork element and moving to batch checks performed at the same intervals on two Veri-PACK units, Karen confirmed that both bakery sites have observed significant savings.
“Paper records are always more vulnerable to being misplaced. They are also time consuming to retrieve. In the event of a label recall or audit, speed is of the essence,” adds Karen.
At the first site, as well as the subsequent second location, Geary’s placed their two offline Veri-PACK units close to the product lines. Every half hour, at the start and end of each product changeover, and after a line stop exceeding 5 minutes, a user inserts the pack into a Veri-PACK unit, logs in and electronically verifies all the label data against the very latest MRP production data files. An image is taken. The results are then stored in each sites’ Veri-CENTRAL database, enabling auditable records to be instantly called up when required.
If the data is wrong, the line is immediate stopped and an investigation takes place.
Designed specifically to supersede manual paper-based label checks and detect label and artwork discrepancies faster and more accurately than the human eye, the Dimaco offline system could provide the stepping stone for Geary’s to automate labelling verification in the future.
The rationale for selecting a Dimaco offline solution is it can accommodate all the different packaging types, reaffirms Steve. As a scalable solution comprising compatible Dimaco technology, if Geary’s packaging formats change in the future, any modifications to the label verification process is feasible.
Quality born and bread
Geary’s bakery remains traditional, artisanal, and dedicated to quality over quantity. Their quest to craft, prove, bake, pack and sell the perfect bread is as evident today as it was 100 years ago. Scale has not compromised this ethos.
From preparing the dough 24-hours before baking in smaller batches, to a longer prove time and fermenting its own sourdough culture, discarding quality product because its label data is non-compliant doesn’t sit comfortably with the bakeries’ sustainability policies. Especially in today’s current climate of soaring energy and ingredient costs.
By checking labels against robust MRP data sources and catching mislabelled products early before they exit the factory doors, the Dimaco systems are helping to prevent good products from being discarded. Consequently minimising waste and ensuring that Geary’s high-quality and hard-earned brand integrity endures for decades more to come.