The Bretzel Bakery has been at the heart of Dublin’s food culture for almost 150 years, offering breads, cakes and pastries from the same Lennox Street shop front in the city’s Portobello area to this day. Volume baking has moved, under the careful watch of current proprietor, William Despard, to a modern bake house elsewhere in the city, yet the unshakeable sense of deep tradition pervades the business. The below-surface modernisation has apparently gathered further pace with the news that The Bretzel Bakery is now overseen, at least in part, by artificial intelligence.
Celebrating its status as the ‘first Smart Bakery in Europe’, it announced that the brains at Irish technology firm, Cognition, had connected bakery systems – including dough temperature monitoring, equipment status and energy supply – via Internet of Things technology. This next step into the future by The Bretzel Bakery’s promises efficiency, economy and no small amount of environmental responsibility, perhaps a pioneering move for the small and medium-size bakery business.
Can networked technologies or ‘The Internet of Things’ and cloud computing really transform life for bakers? It appears that it has been left to a smaller bakery to take the bull by the horns, while the wider food industry sleeps on the opportunities.
Thomas McGrath, CEO of Cognition says: “Food producers are so focused on getting the product out the door they can struggle to find the inefficiencies in production. Fortunately, operational intelligence finds easy wins in energy and water optimisation before targeting the types of production quality improvements that The Bretzel Bakery has embraced.”
With slim margins, growing competition and other pressures being everyday challenges for many independent bakers, Cognition and The Bretzel Bakery have worked together to install no fewer than 30,000 ‘data points’ across the business to ensure that detailed efficiency reports can be accessed in real time. In contrast to focusing on finding and improving faults, The Bretzel Bakery states that it is becoming ‘smart’ to ensure their baking traditions can be maintained alongside growth, making time-worn processes efficient, rather than falling into mass production traps that effect quality.
William Despard, Managing Director at The Bretzel said: “We won’t compromise on the baking process to help us grow our business, instead we use operational intelligence to monitor and analyse performance in real time. This helps us get smarter in how we operate and as we learn, we bake better bread. As an added benefit we’re delighted it’s helping our sustainability credentials as well.”
For bakers who have left a proving bake, only to return and find humidity, room temperature or an unruly leaven has compromised the proving process, what difference would a sensor speaking directly to internal systems or even a smart phone app have made? Is now the time for independent bakers to follow The Bretzel Bakery’s lead and put their faith, and growth opportunities, in the cloud?
Does your bakery use innovative technologies? Get in touch to let us know.