Operating today’s complex cookie and cracker bakeries takes a lot of product and process knowledge. Yet often busy plants can’t spare the time to send their supervisors to class. The Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association decided to step into the breach.

At this spring’s annual technical conference, Stacey Sharpless, B&CMA president, introduced the group’s new Intermediate Training Course. “This is a program discussed for a very long time,” she said. “It addresses a training gap between beginner and advanced and is designed for the mid-level person in operations. These tend to be line workers who have some training but have mostly learned from experience.”

Ms. Sharpless encouraged managers to participate too, especially those who’ve come to the cookie-cracker field from other industries. Allied personnel will benefit as well. The new program will supplement the entry-level course already available and can serve as preparation for B&CMA’s popular and well-respected correspondence course. The new training course has strong interactive elements and incorporates on-line programs to supplement its content.

“This is a big change for B&CMA,” she said.

Wire-cut and beyond

The first segment concerns wire-cut technology and was sponsored by Richmond Baking Co., Richmond, IN. Other course sponsors are Reading Bakery Systems, Robesonia, PA, and Shaffer-Bundy Baking Solutions, Urbana, OH.

Each lesson explains the operator’s roles and responsibilities using a cause-and-effect format. Aspects include proper use of equipment, safety, sanitation, pre-operation checks and so forth. The lesson will take a few hours to complete, but because this may vary from student to student, the lessons have a six-week timeframe. Thus, students can take as many or as few segments as desired within the period allotted. The student can run the online class on a PC, iPad or tablet.

One person per facility serves as administrator and gets additional tools to track students taking the course. Ms. Sharpless explained that B&CMA made the decision to allow individual companies to set their own passing grades for the lessons, though the Association strongly recommended keeping the 90% passing grade set as the requirement for individual enrollments. Students receive periodic summaries of their progress and a certificate of graduation upon completion.

To participate, an individual must be employed by a member company of B&CMA. Enrollment is by single lesson. Participants can printout chapter summaries and a glossary of terms.

B&CMA offered an introductory price of $200 per lesson with the option to pre-pay for future lessons.

“It took about three years to pull this together,” Ms. Sharpless noted, thanking the volunteers who served on this project.

Entry-level and expert

Earlier, the group produced a Web-based Entry Level Training program, offered in English or Spanish. It is designed for individuals with little to no experience in a bakery environment. It can also assist with cross-training programs. It is intended to reduce in-plant training time and provides consistency to the information taught to personnel. The program reinforces its information with multiple-choice tests. Students have access to a glossary of terms and their facility administrator can print a certificate of completion to give to the student upon successfully passing each lesson.

Both the entry-level and intermediate courses lay the groundwork for the student to later take the group’s comprehensive Cookie & Cracker Manufacturing Course, a correspondence course). B&CMA fully updated this course a few years ago and rewrote the two-volume instruction book that accompanies it. As well, it now offers students an online workbook. This course examines the science and technology behind cookie and cracker processing with real-world practical application. It includes not only a series of quizzes and tests but also a variety of hands-on work projects.

The new intermediate course was announced at B&CMA’s annual technical conference held in May at Kansas City. The group’s 2014 tech conference takes place April 27-30 at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, TN. For details about the online program, correspondence courses and other programs and events, visit www.thebcma.org.

Building blocks of knowledge

Twelve lessons comprise the Intermediate Training Course announced by the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association. The first one, “Wire Cut,” is ready now. When fully implemented, the course will cover:

1) Wire Cut

2) Rotary

3) Sheeted — Chemical Crackers

4) Extrusion: Single and Co-Extrusion

5) Sandwich Cremes

6) Sheeted — Sweet Goods

7) Sheeted — Fermented Crackers

8) Post Oven Depositing

9) Band Icing: Water Based Icing

10) Enrobing: Fat Based Coatings

11) Deposit Cookies

12) Cold Press Process