Apple’s founder Steve Jobs probably said it best, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

At the 2016 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas, the baking industry touted leading problem-solving solutions and advances in technology in the Innovation Showcase, a special display in the convention hall’s concourse. Certainly, the most dominant theme this year involved food safety and the sanitary design of equipment.

And why not? Bakers are faced not only with the rollout of Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations but also with a barrage of audits by customers and local, state and federal regulators. In many cases, being certified under standards recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative is today’s price of entry to supplying major retailers and foodservice customers.

Additionally, sanitary design was a topic of discussion at IBIE in 2013 following a number of high-profile product recalls, but this year, equipment manufacturers walked the walk. Throughout the show — and highlighted throughout the Innovation Showcase — equipment manufacturers displayed machines and production lines that were easier to clean with sloped designs and eliminated nooks, crannies and other areas where food particles and water may harbor. And they made these lines simpler to maintain with greater access to internal parts and quick-to-remove, tool-less features.

Such developments also provide additional benefits, including faster changeovers that can result in greater uptime and, ultimately, higher throughput over the long haul. Much equipment was safer to operate with designs that eliminate pinch points and the need for secondary safety guards. And for food safety, many oven manufacturers even addressed documentation of the “kill step” calculators developed by AIB International.

Everyone agreed that it was a great show that displayed a lot of innovation.