The education session "Total Cost of Owndership: A Better Way to Purchase Capital Goods" at ProFood Tech led to some startling realizations about training.
In April, on my way home from SNAXPO 2017 in Savannah, I stopped off in Chicago to check out ProFood Tech, the new tradeshow focusing on food and beverage processing.

At the show, I sat in on an education session, “Total Cost of Ownership: A Better Way to Purchase Capital Goods,” led by Tom Egan, vice-president, industry ­service, PMMI, and Madinah Allen, head coach, CapEx, for FSO Institute, an operational execution consulting firm. The session focused on creating a standardized method for purchasing capital equipment based on a total cost of ownership (TCO) as opposed to the initial investment cost.

Mr. Egan asked the room — populated by food producers and equipment suppliers — how many of them take training into account when developing a request for proposal (RFP) for capital equipment. He was met with silence. Crickets! Just one person indicated his company’s training considerations, but no others.

It made me wonder. Are food producers reluctant to share their training practices? Is training proprietary? If so, don’t expect the workforce gap to narrow anytime soon.

Training permeates nearly every aspect of a bakery: operational efficiency, equipment maintenance and worker retention and safety, just to name a few. And Mr. Egan illuminated just how much training — even planning for it — can greatly affect TCO.

“If you take away one thing from this session, put initial training into your RFP requirements,” he said. And that requirement needs to be specific, including how many shifts and workers (types of positions and skill levels) will be included, and how much training will be required based on the size and complexity of the equipment.

With training in the equation, not only will equipment suppliers be able to more realistically quote a price, but bakers will also be able to more accurately calculate TCO before making a purchase decision. Not to mention, a baker will be able to properly use and maintain — perhaps even extend the life of — the equipment. Not understanding things like cleaning and inspecting equipment, and not knowing lubrication points or how to clear jams without hurting the functionality, will impact overall expenses, Ms. Allen cautioned. “Ultimately, your ­operational costs could go through the roof,” she said.

And then there’s the most important investment to consider: human capital. When it comes to people and training, it’s about more than retaining skilled workers. It’s about keeping them safe. “That’s a high risk, putting people who have not been trained on a piece of equipment and expecting them to operate it,” Ms. Allen said. “That’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

So, the next time someone asks you about training, don’t be one of the crickets. Speak up! The more you share, the better baking plants can operate on all levels. As Andrew Blok, brand director for Los Angeles-based La Brea Bakery, featured on Page 28, said, “A rising tide floats all boats.”