From all I have read, this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) will be bigger and better than ever.  Exhibit space is at record levels. So what does it take to be productive during your time at the exposition?

To do it right, start by identifying your company needs: What growth opportunities are envisioned? How can you improve productivity and yield? What problems need to be solved?

Dust off the five-year plan you developed for major capital investments last year, and give it a once-over. This practice provides a great starting point for the planning process. Have your management team review the plan, and suggest additions and modifications (there are bound to be some). Discuss the potential for new processes, existing operational requirements, facility modifications or planned replacement capital earmarked for spending over the next three years.

Develop a “window shopping” list to work from.

Once you have the shopping list compiled, send it out to those in your company who want to learn about specific equipment or systems that will be shown at Baking Expo. Invite plant managers, production management, maintenance management, sanitation management, and QA and R&D personnel to make suggestions.

Ask them to prioritize what they have identified into categories such as “immediate need,” “within two years” or perhaps “for reference.” Also, for high-priority items, have them identify performance requirements — operation or production speeds; accuracy, repeatability and control requirements; control and parts standards; hours of operation and changeover times; and  maintenance and sanitation features — the critical assessments you will need when you talk with suppliers.

Once you define your needs and performance requirements, take the time to break down the list using the IBIE exhibitor categories. This will greatly help you in choreographing your path through the exhibition space and creating your plan of attack — how are you going to gather everything you need and want at Baking Expo 2013?

How you go about it will vary whether you are a one-person show for your company or part of a group that will be attending. 

For the individual attendee: Get your track shoes on, and be organized. Day One: Do a walk-through of the Expo show floor, and focus on those firms that supply equipment/services that address your immediate needs. Exchange cards, and request to have literature sent to you. Make notes as you go. What was good or bad about what you saw? Identify which companies warrant further consideration and which ones you want to get back to during the show.

Day Two: Start on your next level of priorities, but look around a bit to see what is new to you that may have immediate or future application. And continue the note taking, including booth numbers for quick reference. Trust me, without the notes, the features of different equipment start to blur.

For those of you having a group attending Baking Expo, the team approach will yield major benefits. Day One: Divvy up the list of equipment and systems among you — divide and conquer. Focus on the assigned categories. That evening or over breakfast, share what was learned and what should the others see. Day Two: Continue working through the needs list, and visit those booths that your associates recommend. And just like the individual going through the Expo, take notes, and have literature sent to you.

Whether you approach IBIE as an individual or a team, summarize your learnings by vendor. Along with the summary, attach vendor literature; you’ll probably fill one to two 4-in. binders before it is over. Once the summary is complete, circulate or copy those who requested information. The summary will get a lot of use as a reference before the next Baking Expo comes around in 2016.