WASHINGTON — Going on 93 years, the American Bakers Association (A.B.A.) Technical Conference strives to create a customizable, educational event for its attendees — “your education, your experience, your conference.” To be held Oct. 28-31 at Hyatt Regency Indianapolis in Indianapolis, the event also has been transformed to have an interactive focus that will better address educational needs across all expertise levels in cookie, cracker and other bakery productions.
Previously, the conference had six educational sessions, but this year the A.B.A. has upped that to 15. Driven by attendee feedback, these breakouts will cover a variety of topics, including manufacturing solutions, preventive controls, in-plant safety and sanitation standards.
“We’ve moved away from one-way lectures and are facilitating discussions,” said Vanessa Vial, assistant director of education, A.B.A. “Through this core training experience, attendees will instead be active participants, which is critical to learning, retention and understanding.”
Designed with different skill sets in mind, attendees can select the sessions most relevant to their day-to-day responsibilities.
The conference’s hands-on workshop explores cookie ingredients and their functions as well as how to troubleshoot common baking misconceptions.
“What happens when not all the flour drops from the scales into the mixer? Did we use a new lot code of shortening? Was it too soft? Understanding the function of major ingredients is fundamental in troubleshooting many problems and reducing costs,” Ms. Vial explained.
To further enhance active participation, IncuBAKER, a team-led session, will make its debut. Groups will be given an industry-related issue and a “solutions roadmap” to brainstorm and create a final proposal to share with their bakery’s management.
“Think ‘escape room meets Shark Tank meets the baking industry,’” Ms. Vial said. “This will be a one-of-a-kind experience.”
This year’s lineup includes Erin Sharp, group vice-president of manufacturing for The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and chair of the A.B.A., to discuss employee engagement and supporting emerging leaders. Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader of client insights, I.R.I. also will be delivering an update on consumer trends and how that will impact the industry. Motivational speaker Randy Fox will give an interactive keynote called Game Plan: How the Best Team Wins. This presentation will discuss Mr. Fox’s 20 years as an NCAA official and topics such as failure and getting along with coworkers and clients.
The conference will include expert panels, tabletop exhibits, product displays and networking opportunities that have been popular since the days when it was hosted by the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association, which merged with the A.B.A. last year. This year, a bakery visit will return to the lineup. Attendees can tour Kroger Bakery to learn about the facility and see its operations in real time.
“The A.B.A. Technical Conference is adjusting to meet evolving industry needs while staying true to the fundamentals and spirit of the Technical Conference,” said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. For more information and to register, visit www.americanbakers.org.