Creating a champion-focused team at Gold Standard Baking didn’t happen overnight. It has taken a systematic approach and required establishing operational building blocks followed by months of ongoing training to ramp up each bakery’s performance, said Jeff Dearduff, the company’s president and CEO.

Specifically, the process involved developing people, improving quality, reducing waste and emphasizing efficiency. “The bakery has been on a steady improvement path,” Mr. Dearduff observed. “People, process and product optimization are never-ending tasks, so the work here never stops.”

Spearheading the transition are five veterans — all with 30 to 40 years of experience with many of the nation’s top baking companies. In addition to Mr. Dearduff, Haq Chaudary, chief commercial officer and general manager, leads sales and top-line growth for the business while Wally Quednau serves as vice-president of organizational development and the company’s head of personnel. Don Van Tassle is vice-president, bakery director of the Chicago plant, and Tom Barry recently became bakery director at Pleasant Prairie facility. Overall, this group collaborates with Parallel49 Equity, a middle-market private equity firm that purchased Gold Standard Baking in 2015.

“Each of these leadership members brings skills and experiences specific to their roles, but all are versatile across many disciplines,” Mr. Dearduff explained. “The team works cohesively on strategic initiatives, and the chemistry works well.”

Additionally, this confluence of knowledge provides a steady hand and much-needed experience for coaching the fundamentals of lean manufacturing practices.

“A lot of our employees had never walked into a bakery until they got here,” Mr. Dearduff observed. “There’s a lot to be said about teaching them a craft and a system that requires so much precision, and it’s all moving in the right direction.”

Training is especially vital for quality control, food safety and operating a high-volume production line.

“You can buy all of the best equipment and put in all of the best procedures, but you have to have people who can execute what’s needed to be done,” Mr. Dearduff said.

Having a small, flat organization also allows the leadership team to make swift decisions, often during their weekly “huddle,” according to Mr. Van Tassle. “If we want to make a processing adjustment for example, we can pull together the right people and execute very quickly,” he said.

When it comes to hiring, Gold Standard looks for applicants who are dependable, respectful, cooperative, communicative and willing to learn.

“We focus on those attributes, and we tie each of them to individual performance evaluations,” Mr. Quednau said. “The belief was that if we can bring those characteristics into the building and sustain them, then we will ultimately succeed in all the other things we need to do, which is train them and give them some experience, and they can grow from there.”

To onboard employees, the company relies on Alchemy Systems, an online education program that routinely quizzes recruits during the initial training period and tracks their progress. As a part of its continuous improvement program, the company relies on management expertise, peer-to-peer training and OEMs to offer best practices and tricks of the trade.

Ongoing education is vital, especially with workforce shortages in the industry.

“There’s hidden, undeveloped talent in almost everyone as long as you provide a friendly environment, observe and pay attention, and have an employee base within your reach,” Mr. Quednau said.

This article is an excerpt from the September 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Gold Standard Baking, click here.