After more than 40 years working on baking assets in plants around the nation, Rowdy Brixey, president of Brixey Engineering, Inc., learned how to keep production lines running and why they break down — often unexpectedly.

That’s why the popular Pro Tips columnist for Baking & Snack is leading two education sessions at IBIE 2022. 

His discussion on The Future of Maintenance on Monday, Sept. 19 at 9:45 a.m. will focus on what commercial bakeries need to do to sustain a proper maintenance culture, especially at a time when the skilled labor gap is wider than ever.

A second session called Quick and Easy KPIs that Drive Improved Maintenance will be held on Tuesday Sept. 20 at 8:30 a.m. His goal is to offer the audience some simple options for establishing maintenance key performance indicators that drive visibility and improvement.

Both classes are designed to help bakeries adapt to the inevitable maintenance and engineering challenges in the years to come.

Why should people attend your sessions instead of walking the trade show floor? 

Over the years, I’ve developed a keen understanding of what’s critical and not everything is. Come to IBIE and learn how to stop wasting time inspecting non-critical assets and components and refocus your resources where you can get the most bang for your buck. Asset reliability is like a cup of water with a small hole in the bottom. As you use the asset the reliability leaks out. My approach helps you learn new techniques to keep the cups from running empty based on criticality and data that helps you understand which cup matters the most and when you should go do something in advance of finding a dry cup.

Has the maintenance department changed over the past five years?

Yes and no. Yes, capacity constraints and labor shortages have made the job more difficult, but the bakery assets are unaware of such events and still require the same service.

What has been driving this change?

COVID really accelerated the labor issue, but it was coming either way. The pool of potential maintenance applicants has shrunk, and the average age of the group continues to grow.

How well are bakeries prepared for maintenance in the future?

Unfortunately, many companies, and not just bakeries, are behind the curve. Let’s face the facts: maintenance is a tough job even when a bakery is fully staffed with experienced associates, and when they start falling behind on their work, it can become almost impossible to catch up without help.

What’s key to sustaining a proper maintenance culture?

Absolute relentless follow-up. You must be the world’s best juggler to stay up with all the pieces. Think of it like spinning plates on a stick that someone else is holding. How many can you keep spinning before they all come crashing down? The development part is the spinning and the running back to spin the ones that are about to stop. A sustainable culture is when those holding the stick start to take ownership and continue to spin the plates without your constant involvement. It becomes sustainable when it is just a part of how we operate.

What will the costs be in failing to maintain a bakery in the future?

Ultimately, all businesses are in the business of making money. Maintenance is overhead — overhead charged to the cost of goods sold. A company can lose their competitive advantage if the maintenance department fails to keep the lines running properly and at a cost comparable to their competitors. Cutting orders, late shipments, inconsistent quality, high waste and high maintenance cost can all be death to the bottom line.