Pie In The Sky
Proclamations and assurances of superior product quality are commonplace in the North American food industry, but few companies are better-equipped to back up such claims with an outstanding track record of industry recognition and acclaim—coupled with continuous investment in cutting-edge production and quality assurance technologies—than The Bama Companies, Inc. of Tulsa, Okla.
Founded in 1937, the thriving manufacturer of frozen pies, biscuits, donuts, cakes, brownies and other baked goods is a holder of numerous prestigious quality awards—including the much-vaunted Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award of the U.S. Department of Commerce it earned in 2004—as well as a seasoned practitioner of some of the most stringent TQM (total quality management) methodologies ever developed, including Six Sigma, the Deming System of Profound Knowledge, and its own in-house Business Opportunity Management Process program.
Not surprisingly, the progressive company pays keen attention to the latest available technologies to retain its world-class manufacturing capabilities running at full peak, and the recent installation of state-of-the art robotics and machine vision systems at its Bama Pie, Ltd. facility has made a lasting impression on the plant’s operational staff—for all the right reasons.
Featuring no less than 18 robots from Sigpack Systems AG—a Bosch Packaging subsidiary specializing in automatic, robotics-assisted product handling and packaging systems—the new line incorporates a truly state-of-the-art vision quality control system.
Inspecting each ‘shock-frozen’ fruit-pie placed on the line for the precise color, pattern and dimensional shape, the high-speed vision system is capable of distinguishing very subtle parameter differences, while simultaneously communicating all the product information to each of the 18 robot cells, at an astounding 1,400 pies per minute!
According to Bama’s vice-president of engineering Randy Roark, who oversaw the Sigpack Systems installation in 2006, the new line had a number of technical challenges to overcome, including the frozen-food production environment, a high-speed production rate, complex product inspection, and the application of a cinnamon topping onto the product.
“Bama chose to partner with Sigpack due to the flexibility that their robot system offered by picking the pies directly from the main belt and placing them into the cases,” Roark explains. “While others were suggesting row-distribution solutions, which involved multiple steps and greater complexity, Sigpack really streamlined the process for us.”