A key part of maximizing a production line’s capacity is the labor involved. Even highly automated production lines need people to monitor them, and those people need breaks. Production lines, however, prefer long runs with minimal stops. To meet these two needs and get the most out of production, bakers can do some scheduling gymnastics to stagger staff breaks and keep the line running.

“Find out how to maximize the production you have first,” said Jim Kline, president of The ENSOL Group. “For every four employees, by hiring one extra person, you can run constantly and stagger lunches and breaks. This requires some extra training, but then you can have sustainable production runs.” 

He also recommended limiting the overlap on shift changes.

“We have this theory that there needs to be a half-hour overlap of the shifts so the employees can transition seamlessly,” Mr. Kline said. “You don’t need that. What you need is continuous line work with people just exchanging places.”

Instead of having the entire shift coming in early to swap notes on how the production line is running, bakers can limit that overlap to the shift supervisor, who can then pass any pertinent information to the team.

If bakeries still need additional production runs, additional staff may need to be brought on.

“Facilities should also consider whether prolonged runs will require additional staff like temporary employees or contractors,” said Rod Martell, technical partner, operations, AIB International. “If so, then training and education of these employees will be critical to ensure all individuals are qualified for their assigned roles and responsibilities as regulations require.

With little end in sight to the labor and supply chain challenges that are squeezing manufacturing and demand for baked goods remaining steady, bakers need to find efficiencies wherever they can. With a little strategic thinking and planning in production, maintenance and labor, bakers can ensure they hit their capacity targets without running equipment ragged.

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