Whether bakers are looking to run a more sustainable facility or they’re considering designing a new eco-friendly plant, there are many aspects to the projects that must be considered.
A discussion at the International Baking Industry Exposition, held Sept. 17-21 in Las Vegas, will provide some answers. Adam Walker, senior manager of sustainability at CRB, and Renee Benson, senior packaging engineer at CRB, will present their talk, Baking in Sustainability Practices: A Guide to a Sustainable Manufacturing Facility, at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17.
Mr. Walker oversees corporate efforts to make his client’s manufacturing facilities and their products more sustainable. Ms. Benson has more than 25 years of packaging design and development experience and has managed projects for several snack food companies. Both answered a few questions to provide a preview of their talk.
What changes can bakeries make that have the biggest impact on sustainability?
AW: Designing for flexibility in how the equipment is used significantly impacts sustainability. Instead of having dedicated lines for special occasions, upsize the capacity of standard lines to absorb the uptick in production during these busy seasons. This reduces overall power usage and square footage required.
RB: Implementing a total productive maintenance program, even at the most basic level, and a continuous cleaning regimen, where you clean throughout the day/shift/batch vs. waiting until the end of the day/shift/batch where debris or waste has piled up provide a significant impact toward sustainability efforts.
How can regular maintenance, scheduling and operational practices lead to more sustainable bakeries?
AW: Scheduling regular maintenance prevents longer shutdowns and the need for more costly maintenance in the future. Reducing the amount of downtime and the amount of product waste due to faulty equipment is inevitably more sustainable for the bakery.
RB: When you manage your facility’s resources effectively, you are on your way to meeting your sustainability goals. For instance, scheduled maintenance keeps lines running at their planned rate with fewer rejects, which reduces waste. Solid production plans and material scheduling keeps staff productive, materials arriving on time and finished goods out the door on planned full truckloads. Your energy consumption is optimal because your equipment isn’t overworked to compensate for unscheduled downtime.
When you run equipment to critical failure, the equipment uses more energy in an effort to keep up. Additionally, you have more rejects going to waste, more resources standing around not being productive as they wait for materials and parts to arrive, and you have LTL (less than truckload) deliveries of critical replacement parts or finished goods. Not to mention, you miss production goals and impact customer satisfaction when your products are not on the shelf.
How can bakeries balance the needs for sustainable packaging against the need to protect their products?
AW: Evaluate the life cycle benefit of the packaging products. Some products may be more sustainable in the material properties or carbon footprint but may create consequential effects if the product is not preserved as well, or for as long. By evaluating the product holistically, and not just for its material properties, bakeries can balance which products are truly the right sustainable option for their business needs.
RB: Balance is achieved through testing, data collection and analysis. By field testing all sustainable packaging changes, you verify that you have not negatively impacted production, barrier properties or product protection. If you lose shelf life, increase product damage or create production inefficiencies, your net gain by running sustainable materials will be lost.