During the pandemic, many bakeries have become leaner and more efficient. For companies serving foodservice customers, those initiatives resulted out of a need to endure one of the toughest markets in decades.

For diversified businesses or those serving the retail market, greater efficiencies allowed them to better meet the surge in demand for their baked foods. In both cases, bakeries increased their digital investments. It’s a steady trend that’s been going on for years.

In Baking & Snack’s 2021 Capital Spending Survey, sponsored by BEMA, 81% of baking executives noted they plan to invest further in systems improvements such as enterprise resource planning platforms. This compares to 78% of respondents in the 2017 study and 61% in 2013 that reported investing for systems-related improvements.

“Digital transformation continues to be a conversation, and investment has stair stepped up over the last several years,” noted Marjorie Hellmer, president of Cypress Research, which conducted the study.

She added that advances in technology such as wireless communications, data-gathering sensors, programmable controls, enhanced servo motors and material reporting systems now drive operational efficiency to new levels. They’re also part of an ongoing effort to reduce the need for skilled labor. Ms. Hellmer added that 2021 investments in upgrading facilities (68% of those surveyed) and facility expansion (47%) are likely driven, in part, by coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols.

“We’ve seen a lot of plants operating at capacity this year,” she said. “They can’t get product out fast enough if they’re selling into those busy channels.”

For many companies, investing in the Internet of Things is the best thing to do.