As bakers, engineers and suppliers alike gear up for Baking Expo 2013, Baking & Snack sat down with columnist Jim Kline to try and get into the mindset of bakers and engineers to see what will be important them — and to find out what they don’t want to hear.

Baking & Snack: What are bakers’ and engineers’ major concerns entering 2013 vs. 2010?

Jim Kline: The state of the equipment suppliers is a consideration — consolidations, bankruptcy, focusing (narrowing) of product lines, influx of foreign equipment and the effect of major bakery closings — that has touched most bakers. How secure and stable is the supplier base?  Where will innovation come from?  Who can I trust to be there for me in the future? These are questions that are out there.

What technology is available now (wireless and sustainability and new designs for sanitation) that was not available or of concern five years ago?

Improvements in the hydration of flour and mixing are innovations to be considered. Control system advances — wireless, sensors (IR temperature, humidity, combustion efficiency), and user-friendly supervisory and SCADA systems have all advanced and expanded their application and usability.

Advances in the thermal efficiency of ovens through improved combustion control and burners, and improved construction methods (insulation and STIR technology), as well as heat recovery systems, are important to the baker.

Are bakers willing to pay for sanitary equipment design? Why or why not? What’s worth the extra dollars when talking to the purchasing/procurement agent?

This varies greatly by baker and operating philosophy. The larger players are usually more willing to pay more for sanitary designs (facility and equipment) to ensure customer requirements, consumer confidence and regulatory compliance. The smaller bakers want to meet today’s standards but are less interested in spending additional money against an unclear and uncertain future.

I believe as a result of the grassroots efforts in driving sanitary design standards many equipment manufacturers are finding cost-effective ways to provide solid sanitary designs.

What are one or two things that a baker does not want to hear from an IBIE exhibitor in 2013 vs. 2010?

That the energy efficiency of the equipment is the same as it was three years ago and that sanitary designs have a premium cost.