That expo frame of mind

by Jim Kline
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With two major trade shows in one year, how can you get the most out of both?

So, you are prepared for iba 2015 and anticipating the upcoming IBIE. You have evaluated your existing equipment and identified replacement needs. You have spoken with your marketing and R&D departments and have a good understanding of what products are in the pipeline and which ones might be a bit “blue sky.” You’ve talked to your constituents and know what you want to look for.

Is that all there is?

Perhaps not. At iba (Sept. 12-17, 2015, at Munich) and IBIE (Oct. 8-11, 2016, at Las Vegas), you will have the opportunity to see more than 2,000 exhibitors. Certainly, some will have more direct interest and application than others, but just think of the collective knowledge embodied by this group of exhibitors and the upwards of 7,500 representatives present at these booths. So, how can you tap into this vast pool of collective knowledge?

There are a few areas I personally want to drill in on.

The first is manufacturing processes designed for the growing segment of true artisan breads and rolls, high-quality European-style products and premium crusted breads and sandwich rolls. I will also look for processes designed for gluten-free products. One thing all these products have in common is that “faster is better” does not necessarily apply.

Consumers judge these products in terms of nutritional value, wholesomeness and quality. But to maintain profitability, bakers must be efficient, and they need to operate at that point where sustainable quality, labor, yield and capital investment are optimized. At iba and IBIE, I will look for suppliers who understand this point, who can speak to it and who have equipment that operates at this optimized level.

The second area is energy efficiency. This is near and dear to all of us, and I anticipate (based on the rumor mill) innovations and discussions during both expositions. Energy conservation has been a topic in the baking industry since at least the first energy crisis in 1973. And since then, there have been various iterative measures aimed at improving the energy efficiency of our facilities and our processes.

Innovations in lighting, motor efficiency, building and equipment insulation have been made, resulting in major strides forward. Now it is time to have equipment and facilities that are inherently efficient by design based solidly on science. Take baking ovens for example: Compared with 20 years ago, they have come a long way in reducing the BTUs per pound of product. But against the theoretical minimum, opportunity remains. The upcoming expositions provide a good time to explore what is inherently efficient by design, and those are items I will seek out.

A third area of interest is packaging. It has been a couple of shows since I had a chance to focus on this, and now is a good time to investigate what inroads have been made in films and machinery. Inline quality monitoring will be a part of this look because customers and regulatory policies require tighter control. What systems and equipment are available to support the baker in meeting these increasing demands on product safety and quality? I also hope to learn what is new and innovative in packaging, and what packaging trends the professionals are seeing in the baking and snack food industries.

Environmental issues should be everyone’s list. I have had opportunities to tour bakeries in Europe. If you attend iba, I recommend arranging similar visits yourself. I have toured both modernized commercial bakeries and new-state-of-the art facilities. The majority of them were quite memorable because of their excellent process efficiency, minimalist crewing, reliable operations and “dust-free” operations. Yes, dust-free bakeries! By integrating bakery processes from material handling through packaging, and combining attentive and appropriate employee practices, these bakeries enjoy a virtually dust-free environment. The environmental advantages and operational efficiency gained from these types of bakery designs have put this objective high on my priority list.

While walking the aisles of these expositions and talking with suppliers, I will keep an eye out for new product concepts, too. When I see one, I’ll ask a lot of questions. What is the genesis of the product? Was it created to meet a consumer need, or did it result from a new equipment capability? Does it have the potential to be a product of tomorrow, or is it likely to be a short-term trend? What will the process consist of? Can it be adapted to current lines? What will be the achievable line rates? What will be the expected line efficiency? What will be the projected unit cost? What will be the footprint of the line? What will be the investment costs?

Lastly, I believe innovation to be wonderful, exciting and certainly, when successful, rewarding. But there are times when using cutting-edge equipment designs can be quite painful, especially during startups. So, when I visit supplier booths, I will explore the new and cutting-edge technology and see what trade-offs exist between the ­cutting-edge and the proven-edge.

We all need to understand the trade-offs between risk and reward, and what better time to begin that discussion than during these expositions with the experts who will be available?

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