Make Your Wish List Come True

‘Tis the season to be jolly. It’s the time of year when people develop their wish lists for those special gifts from friends, family and relatives.
Certainly, members of the American Society of Baking saw the latest “toys” at the International Baking Industry Exposition this fall, and many of them left the show with wish lists of their own. Some, however, left the show looking for more.
“The only thing I was looking for but did not see was a bagel slicing machine that was fully adjustable,” says George Poulos of Alpha Baking Co. “There were brochures, yes. Equipment, no.”
Jeff Dearduff of East Balt, Inc. left the show still searching for better bun pan cleaners that fit into a smaller footprint, as well as improvements for pan cooling, which he describes as one of the industry’s worst enemies.
Members with wish lists to improve their operations, however, now face the problem of convincing their executives that the investments are a good idea. In some cases, key decision makers adapt an accountant mentality and act more like Scrooge than Santa when it comes to buying new equipment.
Instead of hoping for a Miracle on 34th Street, the best way to get top managers to buy into systems that bolster capacity, streamline changeovers or improve line efficiencies is to get a little help from your vendors.
“Show us why their equipment is the best available for the intended purpose, and help us justify it financially,” says Barry Blackwell of Kroger Co.
Dave Watson and his team at Pepperidge Farm made sure that key decision makers were at the show so that when it came time to gain capital investment approval, they were familiar with the concept, vendors and technology.
“We also presented show findings to the senior management team, including a recommendation on which vendors should be invited into the corporate office for further discussion,” Watson explains.
Dearduff suggests that bakers first convince decision makers that a system is needed before justifying the expense of new equipment.
“If I were to suggest a robotic application for one of our bakeries, for instance, I would first have to explain my reasoning for it,” he says. “There has to be a lot of buy-in from key players in order to go to step two. If the idea is accepted, I can then move to a business case format, which would breakout the costs, and conclude with a [return on investment] that needs to be between 12 and 18 months.”
Once a bakery agrees to purchase a system, training becomes a challenge, especially when it comes to cutting-edge technology.
“What has worked best for us,” Watson says, “is the use of online courses in basic technology, sending key maintenance and operation members for factory acceptance tests at the vendors, and then hands-on training from the vendors at our site.”
Easy-to-read manuals and multilingual controls are standard operating procedures at bakeries today.
“However, we need more,” Blackwell says. “We need help on training for our employees during the start-up and commissioning of the equipment both at the vendor’s facility and in our plants. All of our efforts need to be focused on the concept that when the vendor and corporate people leave, the plant has to be able to operate efficiently over time, including training of new employees.”
Dearduff advises bakers to hand-pick one or two point persons and send them for outside training in new technology.
“When the device is ordered and being built at the factory, those same individuals should be engaged with the designers and engineers as they work through the application,” he says.
If bakers and vendors work together as partners throughout the new equipment buying process, that will limit the chance of the wish list becoming a nightmare instead of a dream come true. SF&WB
Editor’s Note: The ASB Column is written and researched by The American Society of Baking and Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine. Visit for more information.