Dermot O’Connor is vice president of engineering services for Aspire Bakeries, Los Angeles. He has worked in the baking industry for 35 years and attended the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) six times. 

IBIE Point of View offers an inside look at how bakery professionals across disciplines get the most out of attending IBIE, held Sept. 17-21 in Las Vegas.  

What are your goals for IBIE 2022? 

To focus on the following areas:

  • Identify new technologies, including the use of automation, for product categories that are relevant to Aspire, focused on increasing production efficiencies and reducing costs
  • Leverage scheduled vendor meetings to initiate new or progress further with work streams that are relevant for our 3 to 5 Year Capital Plan
  • Provide a learning opportunity for Aspire attendees to increase their knowledge through education seminars, on-floor production trials and “kicking the tires” of the equipment on show.

How do you determine what your goals should be? 

Goals are established after reviews with stakeholders, including senior leadership, operations and supply chain, R&D, procurement, marketing and sales, to align on business strategies and with particular focus on Aspire Bakeries’ 3 to 5 Year Capital Plan

How will you plan to ensure those goals are met? 

We have identified equipment suppliers that align with our business strategy and our 3 to 5 Year Capital Plans. In some cases, we have already initiated discussions with these key vendors. We intend to follow up with scheduled meetings with these critical vendors to review equipment at the show and discuss Aspire’s needs. Our measurement of success will be the completion of these important meetings with successful outcomes.  

We also expect to discover some new technologies or improvements to existing technologies that may have direct or indirect applications for Aspire. While we “don’t know what we don’t know,” we expect to identify at least 5 to 10 new applications that will merit further investigation to determine feasibility. 

What technology are you most interested in seeing? How will that meet your company’s operational needs? What challenges are you hoping to find solutions for? 

Automation is a major focus for Aspire Bakeries, given issues with labor availability and employee retention. While there are many standard technologies available, e.g. automatic palletizing, Aspire is particularly interested in discovering unique automation opportunities that provide solutions to existing challenges. An example is the use of robotic packaging to provide the flexibility needed to pack a wide range of product shapes and weights without manual intervention. This automation will mitigate our employee issues and improve our costing models.  

Aspire is also focused on technologies that allow us to produce key product categories in a more efficient way. In addition to automation, we are interested in new technologies that have the potential to increase line speeds and allow us to produce more on existing production lines. This involves the identification of existing line bottlenecks and their replacement with “new” solutions. 

What resources are you using to plan your time at the Expo? 

We have a multifunctional team involved in the planning for IBIE 2022. In addition to engineering, Aspire has other groups including R&D, marketing, procurement, senior leadership, etc. Each group is planning their own show activities, while aligning together for larger group activities, including meetings and after show events. 

We are using the IBIE 2022 vendor attendance list and intend to use the show app.

How do you decide which exhibitors to schedule time with?

  • Our main categories of interest will determine where we spend our time interacting with vendors:
  • Equipment and new technologies for product categories that are relevant to Aspire, e.g. artisan bread. 
  • Automation, particularly in packaging
  • Equipment tied directly/indirectly to Aspire’s 3 to 5 Year Capital Plan
  • Anything new. It may not be directly related to our processes or products but may have possible applications. These opportunities will be identified during the show. 
  • Connect with OEMS with current active projects and/or where we have active challenges

Will most of your time be spent with suppliers you have an established relationship with or meeting with new suppliers? 

We will spend the majority of time with established suppliers. However, we are planning to use IBIE to identify new ideas and intend to seek meetings and booth visits with any vendors where there are new applications of interest that are not currently on our radar. The proportion of time spent with new vendors is dependent on the number of new ideas identified.  

How will you decide a new supplier is worth scheduling a meeting with? 

Our engineering attendees will be split into teams, with the team members rotating on a daily basis. We will have a daily group alignment meeting to discuss new findings and their relative merits and will schedule follow up booth visits based on this feedback. We have used this approach successfully in the past. 

What aspect of IBIE do you find most helpful in reaching your goals? 

The ability to network (one stop shopping). Almost all relevant equipment vendors will attend IBIE.

The ability to “touch and see” key equipment.

The ability to leverage detailed vendor discussions for brainstorming on relevant issues.

How will you measure a successful IBIE? 

Successful identification of new solutions and technologies to automate specific key processes and establish follow up actions to determine feasibility and next steps.

Good outcomes from critical vendor meetings, establishing appropriate next steps in critical work streams on both existing opportunities and new opportunities. 

Request and review feedback from Aspire’s IBIE 2022 attendees on new findings, meeting outcomes, and new learnings.