Purchasing a new piece of bakery equipment is a monumental task. So Koenig Bakery Systems built a 10,000-square-foot Customer Technology Center, where the purchasing decision is experiential, educational and enjoyable.
It all begins in the early morning when Manuel Hobacher and Helmut Schwaiger prepare the machines, make doughs and organize the day’s lineup of trials at the center in Graz, Austria. The center welcomes customers from all over the world who bring their formulations and ingredients and get to know Koenig equipment and team members in a fully functional bakerysetting.
“We like to see the center as the ‘baker’s playground,’” said Mr. Hobacher, master baker and head of the Customer Technology Center. “Our mission is to support bakeries and create the best bread and buns for customers with Koenig equipment.”
The facility lets bakers test machines, conduct recipe trials and train staff. The Koenig team can also adjust trials to imitate individual bakeries’ processes and factor in various ingredients, recipes, mixing and proofing times, and other production steps. Additionally, all Koenig’s corporate departments are located in the same facility, so it’s easy for electrical, mechanical and service teams to join the experience and answer additional questions or provide further training opportunities.
“Our flexibility is a unique aspect of our customer technology center,” Mr. Hobacher said. “Another key factor is that we want our visitors to feel comfortable and engage in the trials. We give them the time they need to establish a creative and relaxed atmosphere.”
The customer technology center was built for the global baking industry and has welcomed many bakers from North America. The trip is worth it, said Richard Breeswine, president and chief executive officer of Koenig, to ease the often stressful process of purchasing new bakery equipment.
“They have the unique possibility to test their products and recipes on our equipment,” Mr. Breeswine said. “This way we can make sure the machines are perfectly adjusted to a bakery’s individual needs — to help make the most of the investment.”
The overarching goal is to contribute to a baker’s success, Mr. Breeswine added.
“People flying over from the U.S., for example, should feel like they benefit from the visit,” said Mr. Schwaiger, master baker and deputy head of the Customer Technology Center. “We want to make the most of their visit; that is what we are here for.”
The technology center was opened at Koenig Group’s headquarters in Graz in 2010 and features Koenig equipment designed for various sizes of bakeries, from artisan to high-capacity industrial bakeries. The customizable machines include mixers, dough dividers and rounders, dough sheeting, proofing lines, ovens, and cooling and freezing technology. The center also features plenty of meeting space.
Mr. Schwaiger said the hands-on approach in the center is critical to its success. Koenig encourages bakers to dive in and work closely with the master bakers to have a realistic experience with the machines and learn how adjustments on the machines affect the final product. They can also learn steps for cleaning the machines after processing. Each trial can be different depending on baker needs, which is something the Koenig team relishes. And the center isn’t just for new or prospective clients; existing customers are welcome to visit the facility at any time to run new product trials.
“We love the fact that no day is like the other,” Mr. Hobacher said. “Every bakery around the world is different, so every visit is different. What they all have in common, though, is the innovative power and creative ideas in the bakeries coming to our customer center. It is particularly fascinating to support bakeries going from artisan to more automated processes and higher capacities, but still retaining the artisan quality of the breads.”