When starting up a new plant or production line, employees often can’t grasp everything that’s being thrown at them. At times, it’s almost like they’re “trying to drink from a firehose from every vendor,” noted Damian Morabito, president of Topos Mondial.

That’s why many equipment companies have to send technicians back to a bakery several times to train and retrain operators. “It’s nothing against the operators. There is just too much information being thrown at them at one time,” Mr. Morabito explained. “If the operators retain 50 to 75% of what you taught them the first time, they’re lucky. It is often better to do the training, then let the plant work with the oven or machine for a while, then come back for re-training as the operators then have a better understanding of the machine as they have been working with it for a while. They can ask more specific questions pertaining to ‘how to’ and the ‘cause and effects’ on the oven.”

That’s especially true when it comes to getting operators comfortable with programmable controls. “The technology is there, but teaching them how to use it often means bridging a gap,” he added. “The more complicated the panel, the bigger the gap.”

Sometimes going a bit retro can help with training and retraining. Topos offers printed laminated instructions to help operators adjust the oven or maintenance personnel find the proper lube points or bearing replacements without having to fumble through the maintenance manual.

In other cases, companies are even offering tutorials via touch screen. Some bakers report they record the vendors’ technicians during initial training sessions to compile a library for training new operators or retraining others.

In other cases, the best training may come from having a veteran baker on the staff, according to Darren Jackson, COO and vice-president of sales and marketing, The Henry Group. “You can’t discount the old-fashioned bakers who know what they are looking for when it comes to product quality,” he said. “They’re the ones who are at the end of the oven, breaking a loaf in half, checking its texture and adjusting the oven to get a better product. You still can’t automate the skills that many experienced bakers provide