Technology is becoming more important in the baking industry.

Not long ago, engineers only needed a couple of wrenches to fix anything on the plant floor.

“Today, the mechanical wrenches aren’t as important as hooking up a laptop to a piece of equipment and being able to troubleshoot it,” Michael Redick, vice-president, special operations, Gonnella Baking, Schaumburg, Ill., told Baking & Snack during a recent visit to its newly expanded Aurora, Ill., bakery, which is featured in the March issue of the magazine.

Bridging the skills gap isn’t a new issue for the baking industry. In 2013, the American Bakers Association and BEMA’s Baking Industry Forum explored the emerging problem and predicted a shortage of both maintenance personnel and service technicians within a five-year period. The problem not only involves a shortage of skills, but also retaining workers. Three years later, the clock is ticking, and there’s a sense that something’s about to explode.

Fortunately, the industry is addressing this issue. Currently, the A.B.A. and the American Society of Baking are conducting a research project designed to provide pro-active approaches to help baking companies compete with other business sectors for talent. At the upcoming A.B.A. Convention March 20-23, workforce gap experts and A.B.A.’s NextGenBaker co-chairs will discuss data detailing the extent of the skills gap in the industry and real world solutions to fill the void. For bakers concerned about the future of their industry, this is one issue that cannot be ignored any longer.