Social distancing and enhanced sanitation are no longer new for bakers at this point. While the world has grown used to the stricter standards for health and safety during this past year, meeting the demand for quality assurance in many cases has been a strategy of adaptability. The pandemic has put strain on ingredient availability, supply chains, worker safety restrictions and communication, and for a year, the baking industry has been jumping hurdles.

Aside from increased communication, planning, time management and checklists, AIB International has developed a program for training employees that have been newly hired or moved internally from another position to meet demand.

“Cross-training is key,” said Bret Zaher, operations manager, AIB International. “Sites often have to move personnel into positions they aren’t normally responsible for just to keep the plant running. When this happens, the site needs to ensure those personnel are properly trained on the expectations of those tasks.”

Ensuring competency requires a formal sign-off process, along with additional checks and supervision, which in turn may require additional training as to quality expectations for leads and supervisors, he said. AIB’s Gap Assessment program is designed to train for certification-level food safety.

“To help train employees more quickly, general plant policy training such as GMPs, blood-borne pathogens and general safety training is done at the agency level,” Mr. Zaher said. “When the employee then shows up for work, they can be expedited for their job specific training.”

Many sites have created a shift from full- to part-time employee structures to bring in personnel. Referral bonuses, recruiters, temporary agencies and work study programs have proven valid strategies to meet the heightened demand for skilled workers. Subcontractors, Mr. Zaher noted, are also a key to freeing valuable time for plant personnel focusing on production.

“Sites have increased the use of contracted specialized sanitation and maintenance companies to take some of the periodic tasks off their staff such as HVAC services, forklift repairs, overhead door and dock repairs, part inventories and ordering, general cleaning/PPE supply inventory and ordering, boiler services, chemical supplies, building maintenance, floor scrubber maintenance and flour silo cleaning,” he explained.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Quality Assurance, click here.