In the wholesale baking industry, life is a constant learning process, whether it’s in in a classroom or through good old-fashioned trial and error. And this carries through every aspect of the process, right down to the packaging.

At the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers Association’s annual technical conference, held in Tampa in May, Dennis Gunnell, vice-president, sales and marketing for Formost Fuji, Woodinville, WA, offered tips on how operators can avoid finding themselves in a crisis situation that could leave employees scrambling or customers without product. And it starts with getting out of the office and onto the floor.

“Too often, I see people in upper management making purchasing decisions from behind the computer without knowing what will be affected on the floor,” Mr. Gunnell said. “You need to be out there to see what happens if your operators don’t understand how the machinery works.”

Take for example, a company who suddenly discovers its vacuum unit on the form/fill/seal machine is no longer working. What kind of film is being used? If the film was changed from cold seal film to heat seal, the fin wheel wheels are going to seal off the film before it gets to the vacuum, and the air can’t leave the package, Mr. Gunnell suggested.

“Simple things that may not look like a problem can potentially create a crisis on the line,” he said. “And those lessons can only be learned when you’re out on the floor.”

A lot of film suppliers offer courses and other education on how to purchase — and use — their products. “There are resources out there,” Mr. Gunnell advised. “Get out there and talk to your film people; talk to your equipment people. Get on the floor and see what it does. The people who are out there seeing what happens on the machinery, seeing what happens when it goes through the supply chain, are really making the best decisions.”