There have always been peak periods of the year for certain bakery products: summer for hot dog and hamburger buns and major end-of-year holidays for dessert manufacturers. Those who bake these products anticipate those surges in sales and plan production accordingly. However, bakers now find themselves running at peak production more consistently as they try to meet the demand for baked goods brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We’ve seen that bakers who are serving retail customers, those peaks for holidays have become every day, and how do you deal with that?” asked Jim Kline, president of The ENSOL Group.

It’s not just high consumer demand for core breads, rolls and sweet goods that have bakers running at or beyond normal capacity levels.

“Prior to the pandemic, many companies had started to close plants,” said Rowdy Brixey, president of Brixey Engineering. “They were consolidating, or volume was declining. The pandemic, the increase in volume and the lack of labor created the perfect storm.”

And the implications of all these challenges have bakers getting creative to meet their customers’ needs and help each other out.

“Through the current pandemic, bakeries have also been running beyond normal expectations to assist sister facilities due to issues such as labor shortages, a lack of raw ingredients or an unplanned shutdown because of employee illness,” explained Earl Arnold, global quality manager, food defense and FSMA, AIB International.

Keeping production lines running at full throttle can be damaging to equipment and tough on employees who are already stretched thin due to a labor shortage. Optimizing scheduling, production efficiencies and a maintenance plan can help production run smoothly during and after peak periods.

This article is an excerpt from the October 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Running Beyond Capacity, click here.