Gentlemen, Start Your Bakeries

By Jeff Dearduff

It’s February 2007, and the NASCAR racing season has just kicked off down in Daytona Beach. Fla. Forty-three starting spots were available in the Daytona 500 to those professional teams that were best prepared and had luck working for them at the moment. Hey, wait a minute (looking around the room). I’m not in the press box at the speedway. I’m in my living room in Illinois (fully waking up now), and I’m supposed to be writing about bakery stuff. I hate nodding off like that!
Since my mind is “racing,” how do I take advantage and describe the mental connection that exists between a professional race team and a bakery maintenance department? Both are classified as professional organizations. They are usually a division of a larger organization, judged on their daily performance and can both suffer an unexpected hard crash right when everything seems to be going well. Preparation and luck often come into play, which tends to influence the view between what is good or bad performance.
A quick comparison between the two organizations sets the stage for the moral of this story. First, in racing, you always have a team owner; sometimes it’s a corporation. Obviously, a baking company has the same either in a private or public ownership scenario. The race team also has a Team Manager who makes sure the organization is running properly in all areas. This person also is held accountable for overall performance, much like a general manager, plant president, plant manager or the top person within a given bakery facility.
Then comes the Crew Chief who sits on top of the pit box. He watches over the crew, the machinery and the processes that are key elements of the performance of the team at the track. The Maintenance Manager has a similar role. His people are the Pit Crew, the machinery is equivalent to the car, and the track is the bakery. When we try to compare the professional racecar driver to someone in the bakery, it starts to get tough. The bakery is driven by a large group of people, processes and procedures. In a bakery that is going to perform throughout the day at top levels, everyone in the building must do their part.
Every good team starts with good people. To have a team deliver top performance, its members have to love what they’re doing. When you have a group of people who are just working a job, the passion to perform might not be there. The Pit Crew, at the track or in the bakery, is a critical team that the larger team relies on. Enjoying your craft is important to overall success. The Pit Crew members are the ones in the trenches who have to act in unison and with purpose.
We saw a reference in December’s issue to the Pit Crew mentality, as explained by Franz Family Bakery. When talking about the pressure on bakeries to run as many hours as possible, the company said, “We need to have a pit crew mentality when it comes to maintenance. It’s going to be like at the Indy 500. We have to be able to change the tires and fuel it up in 14 seconds.”
While today’s bakeries are more automated than in the past, there still are many operations that require the human touch, machine maintenance and care being critical ones. When you add that the results of the financial bottom line are dependant on machinery up-time, the efficiency and yield results demand quick response and precise movements by the Pit Crew to keep those numbers in line.
When trying to identify those elements that lead to World Class Pit Crew performance, you have five key ingredients: leadership, people, knowledge, tools and sponsorship. Did I say sponsorship? I guess I meant money to do things or resources to help the cause, those things that are found in a budget process at the bakery. If one ingredient is missing, you have the same result as bread dough that’s missing yeast. It still looks and smells like dough, but it won’t perform like dough.
Leadership is the first ingredient that needs to be in place. Just like on a race team on race day, if the guy on top of the pit box isn’t speaking to his crew through their headsets, they don’t know when their services will be needed or where to deploy them. In the bakery, the Maintenance Manager is that guy on top of the box. It’s his guidance that puts the right people in the right places with the right tools and knowledge.
If you’re missing the people or knowledge — sometimes one in the same — it’s going to be a little tough to orchestrate that pit stop from on top of the pit box. When you have been dealt this hand, you’re probably going to have to jump down off the box and strap on the tool pouch. You didn’t work your career path to become the Crew Chief and then find yourself holding the gas can, did you?
Tools are essential ingredients in this mix when talking about the shop facility, the machine tools and the test instruments, as well as the documentation and training. An organized and clean workspace, along with having the proper tools available, can lead to the positive attitude environment. Ever seen a picture of a professional race shop? Those guys take pride in keeping things organized. They need to be ready for a visit from their sponsor’s executive, just like we need to be ready for a customer visit. Do we have pride in how are shops look and are equipped?
The final ingredient is money. The neat thing is if you have all the other elements in place, the money can’t help but flow in.
So, are you the Crew Chief … or just the guy in charge of maintenance?