Dave Watson serves on the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) 2022 committee and is a subject matter expert and project manager with The Austin Co. He has been in the baking industry for 39 years, and IBIE 2022 will be his seventh Baking Expo as a committee member.
What are you looking forward to most about IBIE 2022?
More than ever, I am looking forward to getting together and engaging in-person with the global baking community. I am excited about the new West Hall, the expanded education programs and the opportunity to see the latest in new bakery equipment.
How will this show be different from 2019?
The 2019 show was a tremendous success, but the committee is always looking for ways to elevate the show and continue to push boundaries. The new West Hall will be a big change for those exhibitors and attendees who attended past shows in Las Vegas. The 2022 show builds on several of the key takeaways from the 2019 show, including the expanded education programs, placing the Best in Baking awards program front and center, and the addition of two new pavilions — cannabis and sanitation. We also understand that the past few years have been especially challenging with COVID-19, supply chain issues and labor shortages. We’re looking for ways to support our industry through this and deliver solutions to these challenges.
What do you hope people take away from the show?
I want everyone attending to be able to say that this show lived up to the high expectations of previous IBIE shows, that the education programs were top notch, that the programs were relevant and they had a fun experience reuniting with the industry after two years of COVID-related restrictions. Let’s face it — there is no better way to meet with multiple suppliers, learn about new technology and industry trends, and make new and meet old friends than at the two to three days spent at IBIE.
What is your favorite part about IBIE? How has this part of the show been enhanced for 2022?
I have been impressed over the past several IBIE shows of how the education sessions have grown, remained relevant and have become a key feature of the show. The 2022 show expands the education sessions even further from where we were in 2019. Whether you are new to the industry or a bakery veteran, there are education sessions for everyone. There will be education sessions focused on workforce challenges, automation, retail trends, sanitation and “hands on” bakery skills.
How can exhibitors be best prepared for a successful IBIE?
Exhibitors can best be prepared for the show by either attending the in-person exhibitor briefing in May, rescheduled from January, or through upcoming webinars. Exhibitors who will be in the new West Hall should become familiar with the layout of the hall, and how it ties into the North Hall well in advance. There have been several other changes from 2019 that exhibitors should be aware of, including early access to the show floor for meetings with customers, and improved logistics for the setup and dismantling of exhibitor displays.
How is IBIE getting ahead of logistics challenges for exhibitors? What can exhibitors expect?
The committee listened to the exhibitors’ concerns and issues from IBIE 2019 and understand the need to fix these challenges to provide a better experience for the exhibitors. Scheduling of labor and the off-loading and setup of equipment will be better managed, and exhibitors can expect improved communication. There is no greater frustration than having to wait for hours for your equipment to arrive at your booth. You will see a great improvement in this area for the 2022 show.
How is the labor crunch impacting the investment in automation?
The labor challenges that are impacting the industry, from high turnover to the inability to hire key talent, has driven the recent push to automate. Because the labor challenge has become such a major issue, automation is now one of the top priorities for most bakers. Return-on-investment hurdle rates, which used to be in the two- to three-year payback range on capital investment projects, are now considered a good payback at five years, as bakers now see labor as a long-term issue.
What new technology holds the most promise for the baking industry?
IBIE 2022 will showcase the latest in new technology — from blockchain to artificial intelligence, and from the latest in robotics to warehouse logistics solutions. The last area of labor in most bakeries is in packaging. Rising wage rates and the inability to attract and retain labor has driven the automation push. Fortunately, equipment suppliers have continued to improve on solutions in this area, as robots are easier to install, program and change over. Warehouse automation is another focus for many bakers, as they look at automated guided vehicles to move pallets and basket stacks through the packaging and shipping areas.
How do you anticipate the current industry challenges will impact people’s goals for IBIE?
Bakers attending the show will see solutions to many of their challenges, as most challenges are common across the industry. Whether the challenges are focused on labor, sanitation, sustainability, information technology or how to produce a new product, the answers can be found at IBIE.
What’s the top reason people come to IBIE?
I believe the top reason people attend IBIE is to find out the latest in baking technology, learn about industry trends, educate themselves and most of all to enjoy being part of the global baking community. The baking industry is special, and those of us who have spent their entire working lives in the industry truly look forward to spending time together — and there is no better place than at IBIE in Las Vegas.