Throughout iba, the huge bakery show that ran Sept. 15 to 20 in Munich, Germany, digital diagnostics were prevalent along the exhibition floor. Baking & Snack editors saw pan stackers that told bakers if maintenance or repair is required because the vibration of the system exceeds 10% or if a motor’s temperature gets too high on a sheeter line, requiring its replacement.

Typically, such indicators can be communicated via monitoring through the cloud or installed internally as part of a bakery’s system. For most bakeries, however, problem solving with equipment companies is still on a request-only basis.

“My experience is that bakers don’t mind if manufacturers look at the system when they know there is an issue,” noted Jim Kline, founder of the EnSol Group and contributing editor to Baking & Snack magazine. “This diagnostic capability is a real plus, but that access must be on an as-needed basis.”

To provide such services, many iba 2018 suppliers promoted that they offer smart glasses and other interactive aids that allow remote technicians to visually see and diagnose technical issues and then rely on real-time guidance to solve those problems. Three years ago, virtual reality and augmented reality systems were toys in initial development stages that companies were just showing off. Today, these systems are offering bakers real assistance. In fact, in the future, such guidance may not solve the workplace-gap dilemma, but it could offer essential technical support for those in-house bakery maintenance professionals who need immediate assistance in getting a high-speed production line up and running as soon as possible.

One small step for mankind, and a giant leap for the baking and snack industry.