CHICAGO — With a shortage of labor and an increasing demand for capacity, a greater number of bakers are installing new equipment and automating their operations. As a result, ramping up production for existing or new products has become more important than ever.
Preparing for a major capital investment requires methodical planning, meticulous attention to details and asking questions — a lot of them to make sure the project goes well.
That was the key takeaway from the session on scaling up production at the American Society of Baking’s Baking Tech conference, held Feb. 28-March 2 in Chicago. Theresa Watkinson, chief operating officer, Aladdin Bakers, Brooklyn, NY, presented the baker’s side of the process, while Jerry Murphy, vice president of sales, Gemini Bakery Equipment, outlined the equipment supplier’s side.
In all, the two peppered attendees with dozens of practical questions that both bakers and their vendors should ask before beginning a major project.
“When you decided that you had to increase your ability to increase more products, what do you do?” Ms. Watkinson asked. “Do you have an existing product? Do you have a new product? Are you relocating? Are you expanding within your space?”
In preparation for the presentation, Mr. Murphy noted that the two of them put together “a list of a million things to consider” that was compressed into 13 major categories ranging from the initial scope of the project, types of products, and level of automation to layouts, timelines, budgets, sanitation, maintenance and more.
“One of the questions from the supplier’s side is, ‘What do you want to produce?’” he asked. “Do you understand the processes that are required to a level of great detail?”
After the 25-minute presentation, Ms. Watkinson was asked what the key is to seamlessly scaling up production, and the audience erupted with laughter to her response.
“Give up on that idea,” she said. “It’s never going to happen. There will be problems. You just need to be ready and willing to invent.”
She added that some parts of the project will go as planned. Then again, many times bakers are forced to resolve a situation that they didn’t prepare for during the planning stage.
“My first time, I really thought everything would go perfectly,” she explained “I planned everything, and then everything didn’t go perfectly, and that was very upsetting. But I really learned in that moment never again to expect things to go the way I thought they would, you just need to roll with it, and you need to have a good relationship with your equipment supplier. In the end, you support each other.”
Mr. Murphy added that COVID-19 and the current labor situation has made scaling up more complicated than in the past.
“We have all heard those stories about ‘I’m waiting for a $200 component that is holding up a $5 million production line, and I can’t seem to get it,’” he said.
The message Mr. Murphy had from the supplier side is to be patient. He added the more planning that bakers and suppliers do before starting a project along with open communication throughout the scaling up, the better chance there is to have a startup that goes as well as it possibly can.