When it comes to return on investment (R.O.I.), there are a lot of ways to define it.
“Is it R.O.I. just from a monetary standpoint or from a quality perspective?” asked Larry Marcucci, president and c.e.o., Alpha Baking Co., Chicago, during a recent roundtable sponsored by Baking & Snack. “More often than not, I usually start with an R.O.I. where I’m looking to save labor. But today, the front end of the production lines are pretty gosh darn automated, yet packaging and shipping still require a lot of people. After labor, hopefully, you’re improving the consistency and quality. Those are harder to pinpoint when it comes to R.O.I., so we may also look at increasing the speed of our line or our capacity when automating.”
But automating the process to reduce labor doesn’t necessarily involve reducing headcount, especially in an environment where the workforce skills gap makes it so difficult to find trained and retain skilled operations and maintenance personnel. In fact, it’s quite the opposite in many ways, said John Mulloy, vice-president of operations, 151 Foods, Bellmawr, N.J.
Mr. Mulloy was integral in starting up the company’s 390,000-square-foot specialty bread, roll and bun bakery last year.
“It’s not so much to reduce labor, but to move people elsewhere in the plant,” Mr. Mulloy explained. “Because of turnover, it’s not easy to find people who want to work in a bakery. We’re still a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week business. So we’re trying to shuffle the deck by taking the labor from one area and filtering it to others because the hiring process is not easy.”
For more on the magazine’s engineering roundtable, check out Sosland Publishing’s IBIE PreShow Guide that’s being mailed to you, our readers, as well as all IBIE attendees.