30 Mar Recap C-Suite Roundtable – Looking Forward
On Tuesday, March 30, BEMA welcomed members for the first 2021 C-suite roundtable. Moderators Mike Pierce of The Austin Company and Jason Ward of AMF Bakery Systems led the discussion with special guest Robb MacKie of ABA.
In absence of the ability to gather in person at ABA’s believe in bakery convention, C-suite members were anxious to capture the pulse of the new administration.
Acknowledging continuing concerns around foodservice and instore, there is optimism of resiliency. This leaves the industry primed to take advantage of the connections and goodwill built with consumers over the past year. Vaccinations and stimulus relief will all play a role in encouraging consumers to get out and spend, but this will not address the looming changes of rising commodity costs and inflation on the horizon.
Optimism and Anxiety
The transition of power in Washington has left majorities in the House and Senate razor thin and issues of labor and workforce, environment, energy and sustainability now have added significance. MacKie predicted opportunities to work with the administration on nutrition and food safety and sharing the story of the industry’s sustainability efforts with zero-waste initiatives.
To keep pace with rapidly changing times that show no signs of slowing, it will also be important to accelerate the decision making process and adjust more quickly to consumer demands.
With nationwide improvements on the agenda of the new administration, the upcoming infrastructure bill will include a grab bag of initiatives, including strengthening the vulnerability of the grid and improving rural broadband. With conversations starting now, the bill could begin moving forward, with some bipartisanship support, toward summer or the end of the year, assuming the nation is on the backside of COVID.
Concerns are also on the rise with the continuing disruption of the global supply chain. Members shared stories of lumber costs tripling since last year and many continue to experience increasing delays on materials coming from Asia. In response, U.S.-based manufacturers are stepping up to help the industry find what they need now.
Innovation to Win
Anticipating that costs across the board will continue to rise, members inquired if innovation and automation will continue to chalk up wins regarding ROI. The answer being yes, with the caveat that adding automation also necessitates employees with a different skill set.
Organizations like Rockwell Automation are training the next generation of technology users with a 12-week course on controls. These training options are finding an increasing niche among bakers who look to fill critical positions. Members also shared difficulty in filling professional positions, and the growing pains of becoming more flexible regarding remote work.
Over the past year, relationships of all forms have become increasingly important as bakers and suppliers look to solve a variety of issues. For some, this means maintaining current relationships where there’s an existing trust factor while others have reached outside to build new bridges to fill existing gaps.
MacKie shared ABA has relied heavily over the past year on outside relationships, working through virtual media to make connections and tell the story of the industry. This has created opportunities to welcome different people and this process is currently in use to introduce new administration freshman to the industry.
In closing, now is the perfect time to meet consumers where they are and to work together to create ongoing positivity by connecting and growing the industry.