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When it comes to sustainability, many bakers look at lean manufacturing and eliminating waste in the operation.

For others, it’s environmental issues such as air permits, EPA regulations and air stack emissions, to water conservation, ethanol legislation and a host of energy policy issues.

As we approach the International Baking Industry Exposition we discussed these sustainability topics with Jim McKeown and Jerry Hancock, co-chairs of the Energy and Environment Committee of the American Bakers Association, and asked how the issues have changed since IBIE in 2010.

Mr. McKeown noted the political climate has changed and there is little willingness in Congress to move forward with environmental legislation.

This leaves the Administration to work through EPA on moving policies forward. He sees the energy/utility industry remaining a priority for the Administration, and the baking industry will likely see an impact on its utilities.

Mr. Hancock noted the biggest change involves sustainability reporting. For his company’s bakeries, customers not only are asking about sustainability initiatives and results, but also they are asking the baker to drive further upstream to its suppliers and incorporate their sustainability data as well. Some customers are even looking for farm-level sustainability practices.

Looking at challenges facing bakers in 2013 vs. 2010, the co-chairs noted the biggest challenge continues to be how to drive operations improvement to increase efficiencies while reducing operating costs.

By now, most bakers have implemented the obvious projects. To achieve further increments of improvement requires more effort and results in smaller gains. Plants need to study each area of waste or inefficiency with the goal of improving the process, no matter how slight that improvement may be. It requires looking at situations from a completely new perspective, and identifying new areas of opportunity.

We discussed how these challenges change the way bakers and exhibitors will approach IBIE 2013 in October.

Both gentlemen see IBIE as an opportunity for bakers to see and evaluate new technologies and ideas in one place. This convergence of products and solutions, sharing ideas with exhibitors and leveraging their experience may help identify new solutions to common problems.

Be sure you prepare for IBIE. Go to or download the mobile app and list those exhibitors you want to see. Review Sosland’s IBIE Preshow Special Edition you received in August to better understand industry trends and priorities. You’ll be glad you did.