(From left) Bill Cook, The Long Co.; along with The Austin Co.’s Jeff Dearduff and Mike Pierce; and Rowdy Brixey, Brixey Engineering, help bring “engineering” back to the American Society of Baking.

CHICAGO — The American Society of Baking added back the “E” as in “engineers” during the in-depth maintenance breakout sessions that featured qualitative and quantitative checklists of “must-do” assignments needed to operate a bakery as efficiently as possible.

The three presentations detailed everything from training and the development of maintenance managers to the design of new bakeries that comply with the latest — and potential future — regulations within the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

“The role of the maintenance management team is to oversee maintenance resources so that the organization does not experience unplanned downtime or waste from broken or poorly performing equipment,” noted Rowdy Brixey, president and founder, Brixey Engineering, Inc.

Additionally, Mr. Brixey said, maintenance managers need to calculate their departments’ spending at the lowest cost per unit possible. That means developing systems of accountability that accurately reflect the cost of maintenance in a bakery. Mr. Brixey suggested measuring performance in units or dollars instead of percentages that could be misleading. If a bakery boasts that it operates with only 3% downtime, he pointed out that the real value of a specific percentage is totally different for a plant with one line running at 100 units a minute vs. a facility with nine high-volume lines.

The promotion of highly skilled  maintenance workers must be strategically managed to ensure plant efficiency. 

Mr. Brixey urged setting realistic, measurable goals and expectations, then holding each member of the department “accountable.” He urged operations managers to walk the production floor to regularly validate and verify what’s actually happening on a regular basis.

He also offered talking points such as setting key performance indicators (K.P.I.s) such as total lost time per line or waste per asset. That may require training or developing the maintenance staffers’ skills to ensure peak performance.

Mr. Brixey said promoting the most highly skilled maintenance workers might negatively impact plant efficiency if they are replaced by personnel who don’t have similar training or experience. All too often, highly skilled people end up managing those who are less talented and that translates to fewer things getting fixed. He urged maintenance engineers to focus on controlling “top hitters,” or those systems or lines that carry the highest risk of failure and have the most impact on the plant’s bottom lines.

While on the topic of finance, Mr. Brixey delved into accountability in budgeting and spending. Sometimes, old equipment just needs to be replaced if it’s extended beyond its years of service. Pushing the limit is not always a good idea.

“There are good reasons sometimes to go over budget if you have an equipment part that you need to buy, and the equipment won’t wait,” Mr. Brixey said.

Realistic budgeting, he stressed, is critical to reducing downtime.

“The longer we run equipment, it’s fair to say that it’s going to be serviced more often,” he noted.

FSMA will impact the design and contruction of baking facilites.

Bakers can’t expect the budgeted cost of maintenance to be necessarily the same for a two-shift operation as it is for a three-shift bakery. Understandably, Mr. Brixey said, the latter will likely have higher maintenance costs that often go unbudgeted as a company grows and the budget doesn’t flex accordingly. Keeping within a strict, pre-determined maintenance budget might result in a slow erosion in efficiency that could be more expensive in the long run without proper funding. Avoiding common pitfalls such as closely monitoring maintenance staffers’ skills and tracking their development often results in increased waste, downtime or inefficiency.

Meanwhile, Mike Pierce, president of The Austin Co, and Jeff Dearduff, the company’s corporate director, baking and snack, deconstructed the impact of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) on a bakery’s facility design and construction.

Their detailed presentation explored everything from relying on minimizing personnel access and employing surveillance cameras as well as effective strategies to ensure plant security. Having all employees enter a single access point provides effective controls while visitors and contractors must sign in and be tracked during their visit, if possible. All too often, Mr. Dearduff said, bakeries make visitors sign in and often forget to ensure that they sign out as well.

Another overlooked security measure involves bulk handling. Today, companies should take measures to protect these ingredient systems with either fences on the outside or installing the systems inside the building.

Because of FSMA, many bakers and snack producers are searching for ways to separate raw and ready-to-eat (R.-T.-E.) products to minimize allergen concerns and to avoid cross-contamination. Some newer operations are reducing — or eliminating — workers’ access from raw to R.-T.-E. departments as well. In existing facilities, however, there could be a significant investment in a building’s structure or design to retrofit the separation of raw and R.-T.-E. areas, Mr. Dearduff said.

Other potential food safety issues involve floors, drains, internal walls and ceilings. The presentation provided an abundance of helpful tips for enhancing food safety and simplifying sanitation.

Bill Cook, field services engineer, The Long Co., also offered suggestions on the training and development of maintenance department mechanics. For more extensive information about the maintenance breakout session, contact the A.S.B. at www.asbe.org.