Management leadership must provide the big picture of a company’s goals and challenge staff to think about new and better ways of operating. Top managers can write corporate responsibility and mission statements; however, to implement those economic, sustainable and social objectives, everyone in the company must work together. Formulating the right questions and getting answers is good for business.

Formulation Front.

Challenge the production department to review the formulas in each bakery and compare them. An anomaly could represent the product to benchmark or a bakery that needs assistance. If formulas have not been reviewed during the past year or two, suppliers will often come in free of charge and help optimize formulas.
Suppliers can advise on improved enrichment options that may allow for better-for-you labels or health claims. They also may be able to reduce or correct the ingredient mix to meet changing consumer demands such as reduced-sodium and trans-fat-free products. Suppliers are familiar with new ingredients to improve the quality of the finished product.
In many ways, ingredient optimization can save time and money. For example, the amount of yeast and when it is added to the dough makes critical differences in ethanol emissions. Optimizing yeast could limit emissions compliance requirements. Flour quality is another important variable, and supplies have been challenging. In some cases, bakers have discovered that when they could not get protein at the usual 13% that their product was actually better at 11% protein.
Question the plan for discontinuing underperforming products. Determine the optimum product mix and keep reviewing it.

Equipment Edge.

Challenge operations and engineering to optimize the production work flow. Fewer units per minute may mean more products out the door as profit and fewer on the floor as costly waste.
Verify that all equipment is working to specifications and contact the manufacturer to help solve problems. A preventive maintenance schedule that anticipates the functionality of equipment based on manufacturers’ recommendations and floor experience will prevent some downtime. Based on use, all equipment should have replacement criteria and a plan for replacement. Determine how many breakdowns can be tolerated.
Reduction targets for water, electricity and gas should be proposed by management and discussed with the supervisors so that the targets are realistic in percent-reductions and target year.
Permits for all agencies usually require annual reports and need to be reviewed annually to determine whether or not changes need to be made to permits to match current equipment use, production and training.

Human Resources Review.

Human resources and supervisors should review job descriptions annually. Descriptions should ensure that available staffing is doing the work that needs to be done.
Job descriptions can also ensure that the people who need to talk with each other are talking. Clear lines of communication should be defined among accounting, sales, information technology, production, engineering, sanitation and management. Ask if people have the information that they need to do their job.
Computerized information systems are more timely and accurate than paper systems. Determine what departments need computers to work efficiently and share information. Use a team to determine what can be done better by computers or robotics. Determine whether fewer people can do the same work or more work. Ask what new skills are coming into the plant. Take advantage of the work skills that they can offer rather than forcing people into the ways things have always been done.

Beyond the Company.

Challenge your suppliers and ask what they are doing to reduce their costs and costs to you. Be prepared to share your sustainability and operational standards with your customers and possibly consumers.
Managers can lead by asking the tough questions, facilitating communication and listening as information comes from the people on the floor. Managers can then make the decisions that move the company forward.
Beware of the cliché, “But this is the way we have always done it” — that doesn’t make bread in today’s world.