I get the pleasure to travel and visit bakeries all around the country on a monthly basis. Seeing innovations and world-class manufacturing up close and firsthand, and being able to share those concepts and processes with readers of Baking & Snack, is the most gratifying part of my job. However, despite all the automation, energy efficiency, throughput, machine design and access, and other innovations in baking operations, there is always an underlying theme that negates all the mechanical advances implemented — the people behind the machines. The operators, supervisors, managers, vice-presidents and executives as well as the folks on the supply side of the business — those providing ingredients and selling, installing and servicing the equipment being run at bakeries — are the heart and soul of the stories we have to tell.

You read about these people throughout the year in our plant and technology features, and we, as editors, get the opportunity to talk and interact with all those involved, including the supply side on a continual basis. Managers consistently point to the value of their team — their colleagues and associates. In this month’s issue, that theme is promulgated with our annual Operations Executive of the Year
award recipient Al Sautner.

We are proud to add Mr. Sautner’s name to the prominent list of winners from recent years, including Tony Dalo, Aunt Millie's Bakery; Gary Brodsky, East Balt; Bill Hayman, Vista Bakery; Barry Blackwell, The Kroger Co.; Mark Borland, Panera Bread; Rick Ferguson, Pepperidge Farm; Robert Creighton, New Horizons Baking; Robert Benton, Flowers Bakeries; and Mike Frazer, Piantedosi Baking.

Praise of Mr. Sautner provided to us by past and present associates as well as acquaintances from people such as Richard Lan, Canada Bread; Jim Zakian, Otis Spunkmeyer; and a slew of suppliers, made this choice a "no brainer."

The second bakery feature in this issue, Partners, is prime example of how people and their dedication and passion make the difference between a static company and a rapidly growing success story. In this case, family ties (Marian Harris and her two children) run deep, and the chemistry lends to a well-run, well-orchestrated business.

In the coming year, not only will these types of features continue, but Baking & Snack also will be adding features focusing on other prominent and unique members of the industry — those that have made and will make a difference in the industry as well as folks that have passions inside as well as outside the immediate confines of the bakery.

In the meantime, best of health and a prosperous New Year to our loyal readers. We look forward to bringing you our own innovations in 2010.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank my own colleagues who have worked cohesively as a team to bring readers the value, depth and insight they have come to expect from Baking & Snack.

Steve Berne, editor

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This article can also be found in the digital edition of Baking & Snack, December 1, 2009, starting on Page 10. Click

here to search that archive.