If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Just keep on doing what brought prosperity to the table in the first place. That’s the philosophy of the organizers of iba for the foreseeable future.

On the last day of the event, which ran Sept. 12-17 in Munich, Germany, Peter Becker, the retiring president of the German Bakers’ Confederation (GBC), announced iba has committed to staying in the Bavarian capital for the next five trade shows or until 2030. (Click to see a slideshow of images from iba 2015)

“I think we’ve learned from the past that we need to be consistent on where the show is located,” Mr. Becker said in an exclusive interview with Baking & Snack. Before he became president in 2000, the trade show moved around to various cities, including Hamburg, Berlin and Düsseldorf, based on the previous presidents’ preferences. For the past several shows, keeping it in Munich around the world-famous Oktoberfest has proven highly successful with both exhibitors and attendees.

In fact, this year’s show featured 1,309 exhibitors from 57 countries housed in 12 halls throughout the fairgrounds. That’s 58 more companies than three years ago. To draw a comparison on the event’s growth, Mr. Becker noted that iba attracted 900 exhibitors from 37 countries when he ascended to GBC president 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, attendance in 2015 rose to more than 77,500 visitors — or an estimated 10% above the 2013 levels. If that’s any barometer of the overall strength of the global baking industry, that could potentially spell good news for the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), which runs Oct. 8-11, 2016, in Las Vegas.

While the proportion of German attendees at iba has been decreasing, international attendance has been surging at a much faster pace, according to Mr. Becker. Overall, visitors from more than 170 nations attended the event. Part of that shift can be attributed to the decline of craft bakeries in Europe as many labor-intensive, family-owned operations are closing instead of being passed on to future generations.

In many ways, iba 2015 was a much different show than in the past. Back in the 1990s, the event reflected the GBC, which is a craft bakers’ organization. Today, Mr. Becker estimates that about 60% of exhibitors are focused on wholesale baking while 40% target the retail bakery market. “Right now, the show represents the balance of the industry, both the industrial side and the craft side,” he explained.

In addition to strong contingents from India, China, South America and the Middle East, American wholesale bakers were well represented. The six-day event attracted top operations executives from Grupo Bimbo, Aryzta, Campbell Soup, Clif Bar, Turano Baking, Harlan Bakeries, Orlando Baking and Alpha Baking — just to name a few. In fact, an estimated 40% of companies from the American Bakers Association (ABA)’s board of directors attended the show, according to Robb MacKie, ABA’s president and CEO.

Larry Marcucci, president of Alpha Baking, spent the majority of the show seeking out ways to automate its bakeries but maintain the “extraordinary flexibility” that the Chicago-based company needs to be competitive in the market. He reflected on how this year’s event differed from the past.

“I was amazed at how many American companies are now going to this show,” he said.

At every trade show, money talks, and this year’s iba spoke volumes. According to a survey by iba organizers, more than half of the visitors make purchases during the show, totaling €1.3 billion (US$1.45 billion).

Driving the need for automation is a global labor problem for the baking industry, especially in North America. Many wholesalers attended iba to seek out new ways to drive efficiencies and lower costs as regulatory statutes such as health care have become a greater burden for businesses.

This year’s iba also saw huge advances in data management and smart-driven technology as exhibitors incorporated new software management tools, vision systems and noise and vibration sensors in creative ways for predictive maintenance and even to ensure product quality. In some cases, exhibitors offered self-correcting systems to automatically adjust an oven’s temperature if sensors indicate a burner fault or if the products are under- or overbaked.

Throughout the halls, process controls not only pinpointed when and where downtime had occurred, but in some cases, automatically proposed a real-time fix or temporary bypass to the problem to minimize waste. In other cases, companies offered remote diagnostics — something that’s been around for a long time — but they raised its level of sophistication.

Energy management dominated the show. More than 700 exhibitors showcased energy-saving technology and process optimization. Likewise, sanitary design emerged as a driving force as equipment manufacturers refined their systems to reflect the need for enhanced food safety and for less downtime in cleaning the bakery. A lot of focus involved a shorter return on investment as well as an emphasis on the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the equipment.

A few exhibitors displayed prototypes — some even not-for-sale — to demonstrate new concepts and capabilities, or even line extensions for their companies. In a couple of cases, the equipment was completed just weeks before the show, and exhibitors noted they were seeking feedback or collaboration from bakers to refine the systems for IBIE.

In many cases, it was an industrial evolution, not a revolution, according to Jim Kline, president of The EnSol Group, Erwinna, PA, and Baking & Snack contributing editor.

“In the past, you saw stand-alone robots and other pieces of equipment,” noted Mr. Kline, whose consultant firm exhibited in the US Pavilion. “Now, what you see is more integration. Instead of selling a robot, you now see it integrated into production lines.

“Certainly, there are new systems at the show, but I’m seeing more refinements to existing systems to meet the bakers’ needs,” he continued. “I personally find that exciting. That’s my biggest take from the show.”

Heading into the future, Mr. Becker suggested iba will encourage more ingredient and flour milling companies to exhibit. Additionally, he observed that that he liked the American Society of Baking’s Hall of Fame ceremonies, which he thought iba may consider for a future event. “I was very impressed with how they recognized people,” he said.

Mr. Becker added that iba looks at IBIE, Bakery China and Gulfood as its primary competitors, but he stated iba and IBIE remain the premier events for the baking industry. In a final thought, he said he hopes for greater cooperation among the groups going forward.