Gary Gottenbusch didn’t have to worry about a workforce skills gap when he recently opened up Pretzel Baron, a new automated wholesale bakery that produces authentic German-style soft pretzels. Gary and his brother Greg operate a 40,000-square-foot commissary that supplies custom-made, fresh-baked goods each morning for the 14 Servatii Pastry bakeries throughout Cincinnati; however, Gary didn’t rely on that talent pool when he opened Pretzel Baron. Rather, he chose to hire unskilled operators and train them in the philosophy of wholesale production and statistical process control. Besides, he didn’t have to break “bad habits” that craft bakers might have acquired from years of taking a hands-on approach to dough.
At the same time, Gary “trained” the automated technology to take on the art of pretzel forming and baking. Specifically, he worked with a European equipment company to program the pretzel twisting machines to mimic what he can deftly do by hand — except 100 times faster.
Of course, everyone knows technology isn’t perfect, even if it has been taught by an expert in baking. It requires a lot of adjusting and fine tuning, especially startup and even today as the line changes over from one product to another. During our tour of the new facility, we saw Gary reaching over the line, re-twisting an imperfect pretzel string into proper form. In his own way, he was telling technology to step up its game. Training — whether it’s of humans or machines — is the key to mastering both the art and the science of baking.