Buying Into Teamwork

By Jeff Dearduff

In today’s “big bakeries,” there is a sneaky little issue roaming around that you might not recognize until it’s too late. Let me first explain what I mean by “big bakery.” It is the one that’s large enough to have a corporate engineering or operations staff, or procurement officers, who end up 100% responsible for purchasing systems that the maintenance manager has to get up to speed and keep working.
“Why is that a problem?” you ask. All too often, the maintenance manager is not brought into the loop until the new system arrives at the bakery. By not getting everyone involved from the get-go, a situation can develop between the maintenance manager and whoever procured the stuff, or between the maintenance staff and the vendor who sold the system.
The second dynamic can be much worse because the vendor’s rep who works with the maintenance manager often is not the same one who sold the system. Moreover, like the maintenance manager, this installer and other people working for the supplier were likely kept out of the loop from the beginning, as well.
Overall, these systems can be anything from a piece of management software to a consultant, a service contract or a $1 million proof box. … Basically, anything with the potential to keep the maintenance manager awake at night. It eventually becomes an ongoing nightmare for the maintenance manager who has to work with the vendor’s support staff for advice, parts and service as long as the system remains at the bakery. A strained relationship between the maintenance manager and the vendors can negatively affect the overall performance of these systems.
By not involving the bakery maintenance manager in the initial purchasing process, he and the vendor team must come to a mutual understanding if there is to be a successful start-up and a long life-cycle for the systems. If there are any issues at this point, both the maintenance manager and the vendor team need to repair any strained relationships.
Fortunately, the fix is very simple. Unfortunately, it’s often not easy to do. You have to find a way to recognize that everyone now owns the situation. Despite any differences from the start, you have to work together if you want to solve what is now your problem. And as if that’s not bad enough, consider this: If you find yourself in this predicament, it’s likely that the people who got you here in the first place will do it again. So lose the attitude, and get the job done.
There, I said it.
For buyers, there are huge advantages to bringing everyone into the loop from the initial stages of the purchasing process. Those who buy and sell will have better chances at being successful when those folks ultimately responsible for installing the systems, getting them up and running and keeping them operating are involved.
It’s in the beginning of the process that buyers in the bakery need to start talking about the next new project they want to do. Whether it’s a “blue sky” idea, a design project or an actual purchase of something big, you never can have enough of the ultimate “owners” involved when you kick it off.
Think about it for a minute. What makes sweeter music: a one-man band or a full pit orchestra? When buyers and sellers make all of their purchasing decisions by themselves, it’s like trying to perform Revell’s “Bolero” on a bongo drum. It just doesn’t work.
Let’s add one more far-out suggestion for those who plan to invest in their bakeries in 2007. At the International Baking Industry Exposition, which runs Oct. 7-10 in Orlando, Fla., many of the vendors’ support staffers will be standing on their tired feet for hours in their companies’ booths. Take advantage of this opportunity. It’s a good time to get all of the parties together.
That’s because there’s nothing better for building successful relationships in this business than face-to-face interaction. Here is the best chance for that to happen on a large scale. I speak from experience because when I attended my first IBIE in 1985, I met people who helped me back then, have since climbed up their companies’ ladders and still are assisting me today.
Consider giving your maintenance managers the chance to get out to IBIE, if for nothing else than to meet all your potential vendors’ support staff. They are the people who your maintenance managers rely on everyday to help keep your bakery running at peak. Of course, they also will get to see, touch and talk about those machines, systems and services that might be coming to a bakery near you.
And to all of my fellow engineers and bakery maintenance managers: C-ya in Orlando !
Editor’s Note: In his monthly column, Jeff Dearduff, director of engineering at East Balt, Inc. in Chicago, addresses the responsibilities of the bakery engineer. You can contact him at j.dearduff@comcast.not. To read Jeff’s previous columns, visit