Every company in the baking industry is currently working through the same challenge: the lack of labor. While many companies are turning to automation to remove jobs that are difficult to fill, baking companies are still looking at their company cultures and retention strategies to ensure their employees want to stay in the industry. 

We know that most are hurriedly investing in automated equipment to eliminate jobs on the production floor that were once difficult to fill and are now near impossible. We constantly hear stories of bakeries starting a shift with dozens of new employees only to have a handful stick around through the end of the week. With so much turnover, quality and efficiency suffer. The impulse to invest in equipment that doesn’t quit and is always consistent is understandable, especially as bakers try to invest before interest rates rise too much. In this issue, you’ll find features on cookie processing and ingredient handling systems that address how you can solve these issues in your own facilities by employing all that the latest technology has to offer. 

By eliminating jobs no one appears to want anyway, baking companies are then able to offer existing and potential employees the opportunity to move into positions that add more value than moving racks and pans around a facility. Employees can stay on the production room floor to monitor and troubleshoot automated equipment and production programs. They can move into R&D and quality assurance or even sanitation and maintenance. This sets employees up to not just work a job in a bakery but to build a career, which many in today’s labor force seem to be looking for even if they don’t see the baking industry as a career opportunity. Josefina Almonte, human resources manager, International Delights, Clifton, NJ, noted that the pastry manufacturer is intent on educating them.

“Employees want to experience growth and a path forward in their careers,” she said. “It’s something we make clear at the onset of hiring and in our training: If you enjoy the bakery world this can become a lifelong career and not just at International Delights.” 

Providing these career paths requires training and investment in the employees, however, at a level most baking companies haven’t done in the past. In my feature on workforce, “Train Them Up,” you can learn more about how four different baking and snack companies are developing human resource programs and policies to meet the needs of today’s ambitious yet fickle workforce. This commitment to workforce, however, requires a massive investment in human resources but offers an incredible return, according to Justin Spannuth, chief operating officer, Unique Snacks, Reading, Pa.

“By implementing these programs, we’re allowing people to be able to see their future,” he explained. “Beyond their hourly wage, insurance and investments, if they stay with us, they can see their growth. We’re often training people out of our company, but the ones who stay with us, they are very loyal.”

Two solutions in tandem — investments in automation and workforce — might just be the key to taking the baking industry to the next level in technology and winning over the next generation of workers.