While Marshall Maddox is no stranger to good luck, when it comes to running a tight bakery operation, he’s not much of a betting man.

The chief product officer for Nashville, Tenn.-based The Bakery Cos. and Baking & Snack’s 2019 Operations Executive of the Year sees opportunities for improvement in every aspect of the process, and his engineering background has provided an analytical approach to the work.

“I’ve had to learn many of the baking metrics that in the beginning seemed a little foreign to me,” he said. “But as I got into it — studied and understood what the metrics do — it’s come together.”

Before many lean manufacturing terms were coined, there was the Deming approach, the quality improvement standard defined by noted American engineer W. Edwards Deming. Since his early days in the industry, Mr. Maddox was a “Deming disciple,” having practiced these principles. Throughout his career, he has coupled the Deming approach with modern lean manufacturing tools to develop an operational standard that focuses on reliability, consistency and predictability.

“The terms have a lot of meaning behind them,” he emphasized. “We use them in determining overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE, and to define quality in our OEE calculations. If you don’t make a product right the first time and have to throw it away, that’s a big quality problem and also a big hit to your OEE. And waste is an element of OEE as well.”

For Mr. Maddox, reliability, consistency and predictability are the most important elements of the OEE metric.

“It’s the best way to define how efficient a plant is and see how those elements are impacting performance,” he said.

To Joe Waters, chief operating officer for The Bakery Cos., continuous improvement is one of Mr. Maddox’s trademarks.

“He’s a constant student of the world,” Mr. Waters said. “He’s interested in new technology and changes to the industry, and he’s never been satisfied with the status quo. He was brought up in his career in an environment of continuous improvement, and ‘continuously improving’ could also describe how he thinks about himself.”

When it comes to management, there are those who run away from fires and those who run toward them. Mr. Maddox is the latter.

“If I run across something that needs to be fixed, I embrace it,” he said. “I get the right people involved up front because if you take the time now to fix what you can, things are easier in the long run.”

Mr. Maddox defined his style in the words of a former mentor: “The devil is in the details.”

In true engineer form, he focuses on gaining a full understanding of the problem before offering a solution.

“It might be frustrating for some people, but it’s my intent to completely understand the situation before I just layer my 2 cents on top of it,” he said.

Taking a hands-on approach is part of Mr. Maddox’s leadership style.

“It’s collaborative, and that gives people the flexibility to do their jobs,” he said. “We have an obligation to give associates the tools to do well every day. If we don’t give them the resources they need, we can’t be too upset if they don’t perform.”

He also seeks solutions through industry involvement by participating in associations such as BEMA and the American Bakers Association. For several years Mr. Maddox served on the A.B.A.’s FTRAC committee.

“That group tackles some very important issues for our industry,” he said. “This isn’t about what’s best for individual companies; FTRAC is a consortium that has the industry’s best interest at heart.”

Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A., recognized Mr. Maddox’s commitment to the industry and his contributions to the A.B.A.

“As an active member of the A.B.A. Food Technical and Commodity professional groups, the industry has greatly benefited from Marshall’s expertise, and he has been a leading voice for closer collaboration among the wheat supply chain, as well,” Mr. MacKie said. “As a longtime, respected leader in the baking industry, his operations, procurement and strategic insights have been enormously valuable to the companies he has served and to A.B.A.”

This article is an excerpt from the December 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on the 2019 Operations Executive of the Year, click here or listen the audio version located at the top of the article.