When I visited Flowers Foods’ Lynchburg Organic Baking Co. earlier this summer, I was struck by the opportunities offered during a complete renovation versus a step-by-step update of a bakery factory. Margaret Ann Marsh, vice president of sustainability and environment for the Thomasville, Georgia-based company, pointed out that technologies that simply don’t make sense from a return on investment (ROI) perspective when updating a line, were suddenly economically practical when the bakery was emptied and rebuilt.
When Flowers Foods was looking to add the indirect gas oven to a tower in the Lynchburg bakery, for example, the company had to add an oxidizer to comply with environmental regulations. But since this was a retrofit, it made sense, from an ROI perspective, to also install a glycol loop to capture the heat from the oxidizer and use it to create steam for the oven. Ms Marsh suggested that the company has considered the possibility of upgrading other bakeries to incorporate the same technology, but the return on investment is simply not there, unless it is part of a bigger upgrade. In Lynchburg, however, the renovation provided the perfect opportunity to find technologies that were not only more operationally efficient, but also more sustainable.
“It made sense to add it as part of the project because it would be a big hurdle to do alone,” she said.
As we approach this year’s International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE), taking place September 17-21 in Las Vegas, I can’t help but note how the baking industry baking, including individuals and businesses, has been through since IBIE 2019. have been epic challenges in the form of the pandemic, supply chain, labor shortages, global unrest and more, who all fed on each other.
Looking back on the past two years, I feel like it’s been a top-to-bottom rebuild, as if our lives have been shattered and we need to find new ways to rebuild them. From an industry perspective, the adoption of new technologies has accelerated to overcome the new challenges we face. Conversations about the workforce look completely different from just five years ago. Baking companies are ready to automate technologies that previously seemed out of reach, and they’re getting more creative when it comes to hiring. Although the past two years have been incredibly challenging, they have given us the opportunity to undertake some of these industry upgrades – like robotics, remote maintenance or even new staffing strategies – which may not have happened in 2018 but certainly make sense now that everything is on the table.
At IBIE 2022, I can’t wait to see all the new technology on the show that has been baking since 2019 to help bakers with their renovations. But I also look forward to hearing all of the conversations and ideas exchanged in these times when bakers and allied suppliers come together to find the solutions to the new challenges facing the industry.