Bakery Tech Tips: The Pit Crew Challenge

by Jeff Dearduff
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Things happen fast in the world of bakery maintenance. A production day can go from a smooth ride to a flaming wreck in a matter of minutes. Preventing breakdowns on the production line through a number of preparatory systems and practices is the main role of the maintenance crew. Reacting to unforeseen circumstances during a production run also ranks high on the performance scale.

For the maintenance crew to be top performers in both of these key areas, a regimented and precision-based mentality must exist within the management and the workforce.

I like to compare the responsibilities of the bakery maintenance team to those of a professional pit crew on an auto racing team. The pit crew also has the responsibility of preventing breakdowns through preparation, and the team also must be able to react quickly and precisely when something goes off of plan. At the bakery as well as the race track, success happens when all team members are working with the same goals, same plan and with the same purpose.

If you have watched any professional racing series perform on the weekends, you know that the pit stops and pit crew are critical to the outcome of the team’s performance. Lead by a manager, or crew chief, the crew is made up of a diverse group of mechanically minded members that specialize in one or more areas. They communicate before during and after the event at very high levels.

The bakery maintenance crew, in my opinion, can be designed exactly the same way as the pit crew at the race track. The maintenance manager is the “crew chief” and the maintenance mechanics are a diverse group of mechanically minded members who specialize in different areas. This is where the comparison to a pit crew usually ends. So what is the missing element that keeps bakery crews from winning their race?

I believe it comes down to not having clearly stated goals or a well defined plan, or working with a true purpose of team. Wrap all of this up with weak overall communications and you start to get your arms around the problem. Sometimes a team is not a team. It’s simply a group of people employed in jobs.

The pit crew model can be easily adapted to the bakery maintenance organization, but it needs a champion. It will also need a strong set of goals focused on communication; a detailed plan that addresses pre-production preparation, testing and startup; and a common purpose that has everyone working as a team, for the team.

When this model is executed,  your team will be more engaged and your production line will perform with winning results

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