Convention 2023 Reflection: Ask A Baker

Ask A Baker

On Friday, June 23, Convention 2023 brought together a panel of bakers for a Q&A session with attendees to share their wins and challenges of the last year. The baker panel included Bill Quigg of Richmond Baking, Margaret Ann Marsh of Flowers Foods, OJ DeSouza of Signature Baking Company and Alexander Salameh, Bakery of France.

Ask A BakerThe Breakdown

Employee-Centric Operations – As labor challenges continue to impact the industry, bakers are loosening ties with old practices to welcome in flexible scheduling options that are more family and employee friendly. A family-minded approach has opened the door to better serve employees with scheduling that works around school hours and after-school activities. Companies are also looking at hiring from different segments of the population including incarcerated and rehabilitated workers.

Sustainability/ESG – Because of changes in SEC rules around disclosure, there is more focus and interest in quantifying energy and water savings. Companies are looking at equipment purchases with a long term approach, one that saves the Earth’s resources while also helping to reduce costs. As bakeries work with limited resources, they are looking to suppliers to help create and source equipment that reduces energy use. This includes looking at cleaning processes and utilities. The ability to articulate this information is becoming increasingly important as customers are asking about a company’s role in the sustainability of its products and operations. Sustainability also requires a cross-functional approach that brings together subject matter experts from throughout the bakery.

Market Growth – The need for contract manufacturing remains strong and automation continues to help bakeries improve flexibility and increase offerings. This is especially important as larger companies look to outsource projects. Customer needs remain top of mind, and many bakers have continued with the pivots they made during the pandemic. This includes a focus on customization and an increase in the production of long-fermented, frozen products to help customers navigate ongoing labor shortages.

Ask A Baker

Customer Demands – Bakers are looking to meet customer demands with a mindset of continuous improvement. This includes partnering with equipment and ingredient suppliers to create solutions through better equipment designs and improved efficiencies that are cost effective. Equipment that produces consistent, quality results also requires the need for ongoing training and education to help bakers find new ways to improve product quality and meet evolving customer needs.

Working with Suppliers – Bakers are looking to their ingredient and equipment suppliers for assistance. This includes proper set-up of the equipment and help in choosing automation that will anticipate the needs of the plant with foresight of environmental regulations on the horizon. Bakers want to find ways to get on the same page with their vendors and to facilitate better communication between a bakery’s technicians and vendor technicians. Knowing that training often happens when a line is down, bakers look for open communication, ready access to technicians and knowledge about optimizing equipment operation. Short videos and cheat sheets are always welcome, and bakers appreciate check-ins to circle back once equipment is up and running.

Safety Practices – The cost of safety is always higher than one might anticipate and even a small accident can cost thousands of dollars. The need for consistent safety practices continues to grow with employee turnover and more staff who are new to manufacturing processes. Bakers are choosing to emphasize safety from day one and implement practices to keep the importance of safety top of mind for all employees. Centerline programs, a Six Sigma process, can help determine the best settings and ranges for important variables.

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