Efficiency is all about controlling how the machines get a baked food from the mixer into the package. And while the focus is on data, people and results, it’s important to be mindful of the equipment performing the task.

“We have to maintain a good, solid, robust maintenance program where we’re being preventive and also predictive at times,” said Jeb Sloan, corporate engineering team lead, Clif Bar & Company.

Even the most thoughtfully designed equipment will complete its useful life at some point, and it’s up to the bakers to understand when the asset is optimized to its full potential.

“If we’re seeing failures on equipment show up as one of the top downtime reasons, then we have to decide if we can live with that level of failure,” Mr. Sloan said. “If it’s acceptable for that particular asset, there’s no need to replace it.”

Bakery production is a complex system; the age and type of equipment are not the only factors to consider in terms of continuous improvement on a production line, said Joe Owad, director of plant engineering, Pepperidge Farm, a subsidiary of Campbell Soup Co.

“There are a lot of technological advancements and new design functions that are very attractive to drive performance improvements,” he said. “But I have also seen many older machines run just as well as new counterparts when they’re maintained and operated effectively.”

When considering age and equipment type in continuous improvement, it’s not an either/or scenario.

“It comes down to the required capabilities needed from the equipment,” Mr. Owad said. “Ultimately, you should weigh the actual business or process requirements against the anticipated costs to determine your strategic needs.”