Accurately Measuring Bakery Ingredients [Success Story]

Wilkinson Bread Bakery Image

Wilkinson Bread Bakery in operation at Super 1 Foods in Walla Walla, WA

Customer Requirements: Consistent, accurate measurement of dry and wet ingredients for fully automated in-store bread bakery 

Solution: Q60AFV adjustable-field sensor , U-GAGE® S18U ultrasonic sensor, K50FL EZ-LIGHT® 

Why Banner? Background suppression – Detects objects within a defined sensing field, ignoring objects beyond the sensing field cutoff

Design – Right-angle sensing head on the U-GAGE S18U saved valuable vertical space in a compact installation

Simplicity – Flat pack design facilitated deployment of the EZ-LIGHT onto the bakery 

Customer Benefits

Ease-of-use – Push-button and remote programming makes setup quick and easy

Consistency – Microprocessor design on the S18U ensures reliable performance across the entire sensing window

Longevity – Low power consumption LEDs on the K50FL offer years of reliable service


Baking is a mixture of creativity, precision and attention to detail. The Wilkinson Baking Company has added technical innovation to the mix. The Wilkinson Bread Bakery is a compact, completely self-contained and fully automated bread bakery. This unique machine combines technology with tradition to transform simple raw ingredients into bakery fresh bread at 40 loaves an hour.

Intended for use in grocery stores and similar retailers, this new concept in on-site baking is designed to be functional and engaging. Its transparent build allows customers to view all of the bakery’s primary functions, beginning with measuring and mixing ingredients, then kneading and forming the dough into a loaf, and ending with proofing, baking and cooling. 

Precision is critical to baking; miscalculations can easily ruin the final product. Wilkinson needed sensors capable of exact measurements that would perform consistently with repeatable accuracy over time. The sensors had to be compact, capable of fitting discretely into a confined space where dust, moisture and temperature would pose regular challenges. Wilkinson also wanted to integrate an at-a-glance status light indicating ingredient levels. 

Dry Ingredients Image

Q60AFV adjustable-field sensors are used to measure bread mix inside highly polished stainless steel hoppers

Wilkinson Bread Bakery Image

View of the Bread Bakery with dry ingredient hoppers, water and mixing chambers displayed

Dry Ingredients

The process begins by loading dry ingredients into the bakery hopper. From there they are automatically measured into the mixing chamber in single loaf portions. Surface inconsistencies, the lowreflectivity of the ingredients and even the container can pose challenges to sensor accuracy. The fine-grained consistency of the ingredients may promote dust build-up on internal surfaces and on the sensor itself, affecting performance and longevity.

Working with Automation Solutions, a Banner partner serving the Western U.S., Wilkinson selected the Q60AFV adjustablefield sensor with background suppression. This robust sensor uses optical triangulation for reliable object detection regardless of color, reflectivity, surface irregularities or background conditions. Simple adjustments with a screwdriver allowed Wilkinson to define a precise sensing range. Push-button and remote programming options made setup easy. The sealed housing and protected circuitry ensured that the Q60 would perform reliably, despite environmental challenges.  

Additionally, Wilkinson installed the K50FL EZ-LIGHT® onto the bread bakery. The three-color dome indicates the level of dry ingredients inside the hopper, alerting the system operator when levels run low. The EZ-LIGHT was easy to install and matched the function and design aesthetics established by Wilkinson. 

Wet Ingredients

Once the dry ingredients have been added, the bread bakery measures out enough water to make a single loaf and adds it to the mixing chamber. Clear liquids, like water, can be very difficult to detect using standard photoelectric sensors, and the associated moisture can have an adverse effect on sensor operation and reliability. 

Automation Solutions recommended the U-GAGE® S18U ultrasonic sensor. This highly accurate sensor uses sound waves rather than light to detect for object presence and level. Temperature compensation circuitry corrects for environmental variations. The available right-angle sensing head made it easy to install the sensor. The S18U features programmable background suppression using on-board push buttons or remote TEACH wire. The leak proof encapsulated enclosure provides protection against moisture.

Water Cylanders Image

U-GAGE® S18U ultrasonic sensors are used to detect water levels inside sealed chambers


Wilkinson needed sensors capable of precisely measuring ingredients over many hours of operation. The robust sensing and background suppression capabilities of the Q60AFV adjustable-field sensor made it ideal for dry ingredient detection. The U-GAGE S18U offered superior measurement accuracy for wet ingredients and the compact size and right-angle sensing head made it easy to integrate into the bakery. The K50FL EZ-LIGHT provided Wilkinson with an easy-to-see ingredient level indicator light. The Banner products provided the Wilkinson Bread Bakery with the measurement accuracy and consistent performance required to produce 40 loaves of freshly baked bread an hour for thousands of operational hours.

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