RESTON, VA. — Baking and snack manufacturers contend with many factors that affect product quality and consistency. Facility temperature, moisture, ingredient origins and airborne particulates are just some of those details that seem minor but may significantly influence the taste and texture of a baked goods. While food science and culinary programs prepare students for careers in baking and snack manufacturing with technical and chemistry curriculums, there are some instinctual, troubleshooting skills that simply must be learned in the workforce. These abilities can be summed up in one word: artistry — and it is critical to the success of not just industry professionals but also whole companies.
To help baking and snack manufacturers understand what resources are available to better hone these skills, PMMI spoke to three experts from different reaches of the industry to weigh in.
Art takes good instincts
|David Van Laar, president of The Biscuit and Cracker Manufacturers Association (B.&C.M.A.)|
“While the chemical makeup of ingredients like sugar, flour and wheat kernels will not change, there is a combination of factors that can have a significant impact on the line. One of these factors is allergen cross-contamination — and the industry-wide drive to prevent it with upcoming FSMA provisions. We must ensure the segregation of allergens, such as peanuts, throughout the processing and packaging timeline. Gluten and G.M.O.s represent other sensitive ingredients that can require the same treatment. These efforts to isolate allergens can have far-reaching reverberations on the line, affecting oven temperature, mixing technique, conveyor speeds and more. It takes an operator with artful knowledge to understand what changes to make when even trace amounts of an ingredient are added or removed. Sometimes, variants aren’t as obvious as reformulations. Sometimes, variants from plant to plant are climate-specific. Factors like air quality and humidity can create dramatic differences in product taste and texture.
However, just measuring indicators like color, moisture and PH will not provide a solution. To fully understand and troubleshoot the impact of these variations on the line, operators must become artists. B.&C.M.A. offers an educational program that aims to instill good troubleshooting instincts. It also teaches the language necessary to articulate informed observations on the line based on 117 years of accumulated industry knowledge. It’s one thing to say, 'The cookie is too big.' It’s another thing to say the cookie is flat with a closed texture, no shoulder and slightly dark with a bone (hard texture anomaly) inside. Baking and snack professionals can learn about our program by visiting our experts at The Baking & Snack Break Lounge (Booth No. N-456) located in the North Hall at PACK EXPO International 2016, Nov. 6-9, McCormick Place, Chicago).”
Nurture the workforce
|Tom Egan, vice-president of industry services for PMMI|
“Baking and snack manufacturers need operators who instinctively know what to do and do it rather than waiting to be told. To achieve this dynamic, empowering the workforce and building a strong understanding of nuanced differences between ingredients and environmental factors are critical measures. The understanding and the nuancing of equipment to maximize productivity and the brand loyalty of consumers is a tricky process. When consistency is key, any product that is slightly off in flavor can be a detriment to the brand.
Then, there are practical necessities — like compliance with FSMA provisions — which drive the need for operators to have a more holistic view of their duties. The responsibility to produce high-quality product while meeting desired levels of overall equipment effectiveness rests in their hands.
Close monitoring of the line and the implementation of swift, instinctive changes ensure the right settings to deliver the desired product quality at desired speeds. Operators cannot approach their work with one-size-fits-all solutions. Companies must pass down the values of learning and responsibility so employees understand the impact they can have on the business. Part of this learning comes from the OEMs and other technology suppliers that provide training to end users on proper use of the equipment. The other part of that education stems from the end users’ own workforce development initiatives. To help these companies support an engaged workforce, PMMI’s OpX Leadership Network offers solutions and reports from the OpX Workforce Development Solutions Group. Attendees at PACK EXPO International 2016 can visit the OpX Leadership Network (Booth No. N-4450) on the show floor for more information.”
Walk the walk and invest in training
|Dennis Gunnell, vice-president of sales and marketing for Formost Fuji Corp.|
“Equipment fluency is critical to the successful run of a line. When a customer experiences an environmental challenge — like a seasonal change in humidity, it’s important for them to know the capabilities they have in accommodating that factor to maintain product consistency. As a supplier, the most critical part of what we do is the technology transfer. We evaluate situations, we understand our equipment and we suggest solutions.
On our side, we have participated in PMMI’s Certified Trainer Workshop to make better teachers of our technicians. It’s an important investment to make as a company. Then, we create engaging programs to transfer our knowledge to customers. These often involve fewer classroom lectures and more on-site role-playing. For the end user, it can be challenging to make the time investment in thorough, comprehensive training when the temptation is there to rush to production, creating challenges that never had to exist. However, companies can’t just talk the talk when it comes to training. They must walk the walk. Doing so will maximize efficiency and savings.
Another important step end users must take to get the most out of supplier training is the preparation of their operators. Communicating to employees about expectations, responsibilities and the overall importance of their role. These educational opportunities set them up to be more eager learners.
For more information on Formost Fuji’s approach to customer training, visit the company’s booth at PACK EXPO International 2016 Booth No. S-2847.”
For baking and snack manufacturers looking to invest in artistry on the line with a workforce of educated, instinctual problem-solvers, PACK EXPO International 2016 (McCormick Place, Chicago; Nov. 6–9) will provide a resource for tools and programs provided by associations and suppliers. Visit www.packexpointernational.com to register and learn more.