Pro Tip: Rely on data gathering and proper investigative techniques to identify problems and keep them from recurring.

While every bakery will experience an unplanned downtime event from time to time, some respond better than others. Many times, catastrophic events seem to repeat themselves and become a huge source of ongoing frustration before being resolved. Bakeries will often reach out to me looking for assistance.

My advice? Proper investigative techniques can prove invaluable.

Ed Meese, the late president of AMF (now AMF Bakery Systems), once said: “Don’t try and solve what you don’t understand.”

For me, this means “question to understand.” Asking the right questions and getting the correct answers are keys to providing good guidance. This means bakeries need to have a process in place to collect data the moment the event(s) happens.

How does this Pro Tip lead to methods for a change in behavior? Start by developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to ensure operators, supervisors and mechanics observe critical details and record as many facts as possible.

These details can later help identify common factors that are often repetitive, like a bad tray, bent grid, etc.

Depending on the machine’s specific features, forms would be customized to include information such as cycle position, product type, pan type, operator name, temperature, speed (bake time, etc.), tray/shelf/rack number, was the product proofed/baked or unique in some way and any other factor that could lead your problem-solving team to determine a root cause.

Another excellent troubleshooting tool is a video system to record a specific area that can be played back after an event to observe the problem as it happened.

Today’s maintenance departments should own a couple of Go-Pro cameras. Mount them to a pan or a piece of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW) plastic, then on a down day run it through your proofer, oven or cooler to discover rough transfers, broken framework, source of product or pan turning/hanging.

You’ll be able to see the environment your product gets exposed to as it rides through your process. This can quickly lead your team to resolve the problem.

There are many ways to implement troubleshooting techniques, but consistent data collection is important in discovering where issues begin to arise. Use these tools and save yourself the hassle of having the same problems plague your bakery over and over.

Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.

You can connect with him at LinkedIn.