What to expect at the A.B.A. Technical Conference

by Joanie Spencer
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A.B.A.'s recent merger with B.&C.M.A. has led to an event that brings both organizations' strengths to bear.
 

Deemed the largest conference designed specifically for cookie, cracker and baking professionals from across the industry, the 2017 Technical Conference, to be held Oct. 22-25, at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk, has been in a state of transformation that began before the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers Association (B.&C.M.A.) merged with the American Bakers Association (A.B.A.) earlier this year.

In fact, for the past three years, conference planners have been working to refine the educational programs to zero in on the most important technical issues facing baking professionals. Now simply called the Technical Conference, the biggest change might just be to the conference’s logo. The technical know-how remains the same — perhaps it’s become even better.

“We have a lot more going on behind the scenes,” said David Van Laar, senior adviser to the president and chief executive officer, and B.&C.M.A. transition and development for the A.B.A. “Preparation has been under way for quite some time, and it’s very thorough.”

He noted that the former B.&C.M.A. allied committee and education committee have been combined to form the A.B.A. Education Committee.

“(The merger) gives us the ability to commission a wider range of speakers and get more technical in many areas,” he said.

Education sessions, which will take place on Oct. 23 and 24, will be organized in two phases: The first 30-minute presentation will introduce a bakery issue on a theoretical level, and the second speaker will discuss practical application for that situation. Topics include ovens, food safety standards, hygienic controls, workforce development from an operations perspective, lean process and optimization, cocoa processing, and more.

On Oct. 25, the conference will once again offer a hands-on training session.

“We realize that hands-on training is becoming more and more relevant, so this year we’re focusing on leavening,” Mr. Van Laar said.

A.B.A. members who are currently enrolled in the Cookie & Cracker Manufacturing Course can receive credit for one work project exam upon submission of a written summary, which will be graded by a technical adviser.

Also in the spirit of putting theory into practice, attending allied members place a heavy emphasis on problem solving for bakers.

“Our allieds don’t just talk about being problem solvers, they also put it into action at this conference,” Mr. Van Laar noted. In fact, he said conference attendees who are seeking solutions to a specific issue, and can’t get an appointment with a vendor, can contact him personally for help in setting up a one-on-one meeting.

The 2017 Technical Conference is open to all A.B.A. members, and the association welcomes anyone who has not attended in the past, specifically A.B.A. members who were not previously part of B.&C.M.A. For more information and to register, visit www.americanbakers.org
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