Recent economic challenges have highlighted the importance of concentrating on the core business. Managers are looking at cutting operational costs and are feeling competitive pressure when pricing products and innovating. Collaboration, a temporary alliance of distinct parties for joint action, is key for growth in business. IBIE 2010 provides the perfect opportunity for bakers to collaborate with suppliers.
Pressures to show corporate responsibility and implement sustainability initiatives have positively influenced companies to reduce resources and cut costs. For example, a company may have collaborated with the Environmental Protection Agency or a state agency to identify business opportunities related to climate change legislation, environmentally friendly construction and alternative energy grants and tax programs. In areas where water is scarce, industrial users and water suppliers can work together to maximize water infrastructure and reuse.

Executives have the big picture vision for where the company is in the current market and where it could be in five or 10 years. They have the responsibility to create an overall structure that supports the future. Successful implementation of that vision is in the details.

Morton Sosland, editor-in-chief, Milling & Baking News, recently made an editorial reference to the importance of “industrial services” in many manufacturing operations where as many people may be involved with servicing customers as are involved with actual production. This suggests that the infrastructure already exists to facilitate collaboration.

Innovations are usually the product of collaboration, different minds and different perspectives. Baker and equipment manufacturer collaborative efforts can set a goal for reduced energy or water use. The equipment designer and bakery production staffs can then work together to meet the goal. Another goal might be a product with functional health benefits, innovations that could take years to bring to market.
Food manufacturers attending IBIE should look at the suppliers as possible collaborators to meet future needs. One method for glimpsing future needs is the lifecycle costs of a piece of equipment.

When figuring the return on investment of equipment purchases, consider the purchase price, the cost to operate the equipment and the cost to dispose of the equipment. Food safety and government regulations also are critical considerations. Labor and utility costs are important, too.

Whether a lighting system, a mixer or a proof box is being implemented, elements in the evaluation include:

• Easy installation that leaves an easily cleanable footprint
• Tool-less disassembly for sanitation, safety and quick changeover
• Water and energy use; reuse of water and heat
• Protected electronics that can change as technology and programs change
• Noise levels that will help the bakery stay under a cumulative 90 decibels
• Potential contamination of bakery product
• Cost of consumables such as nonhazardous lubricants, inks and solvents
• The ability to modify equipment for product variation and new technology
• Recyclability of the machine at the end of its useful life, nonhazardous or hazardous
• Permit requirements

Some of the elements listed above may not be attainable now but early collaboration may make them available in the future. IBIE will offer the opportunity to fill immediate needs and to discuss future collaboration.

Recently, I was served a single-serve bag of wine and asked if I wanted a straw or a glass. Think about new packaging options. Consider future labeling for multipurposes including recalls. Some things haven’t changed much over time like cake boxes or truck configurations.

Food waste will not be used for animal feed forever; farmland is disappearing. Think about food waste being reused as pet food or returned to the miller for some other use.

Leadership in collaboration requires a balance of organizing for action without creating dysfunction. Companies must find the right timing to take action — soon but not too soon. The future will be more volatile and complex; collaboration is an effective management tool to build a platform of strength for growth.