Bakers have access to a wealth of innovative technologies to slash energy use, from phase-changing materials for freezing to infrared ovens and reflective coatings. But policy director at ABA Rasma Zvaners said not all of industry is digging deep to invest.
“The opportunities are certainly there but I don’t feel everyone is jumping on board just yet,” Zvaners told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“There’s a lot of potential there, certainly if you’re starting from scratch with a new bakery – from the building design to the equipment inside. But with an older bakery, you are a bit more limited,” she said.
ABA’s president and CEO Robb MacKie agreed that investments in new technologies are not widespread but added that there is “a lot of experimentation going on”.
“Bakers are looking at next generation technologies. For example, there is a lot of conversation about ovens and particularly shortening up the oven start-up times so that you are able to maintain consistent oven temperatures – the calibration,” he said.
The McDonald's bakery council and its suppliers, for example, recently met to discuss just this – how to calibrate the oven temperatures to ensure more even heat and gas reduction, he said.
‘It’s not like Google or Apple’
When it comes to uptake of such technologies, MacKie said that cost is, of course, an issue for bakers.
Industry naturally has its concerns about hefty upfront investments on energy efficiency, he said, particularly at around $6-10 million dollars for an entire new line.
“I don’t know any bakers who don’t have anxieties. They’ve always operated at a very small margin – it’s not like Google or Apple. Investing in new equipment and lines is not insignificant and we’re a low-margin business.”
The uphill climb…
Zvaners said that more could be done in the bakery sector to improve energy efficiency.
“We haven’t hit the top but we’re climbing up that hill. It is very much a hill – it isn’t easy for a baking company to embrace – to track energy use, issue specific assignments, be more considerate of energy use,” she said.
For energy efficiency measures to become the norm, she said it would be crucial for all members of the baking world to embrace efforts – from the CEO right down through to bakery plant workers.
MacKie agreed: “It requires top buy-in, otherwise you’re spinning on your wheels.”
A skilled workforce needs to come roaring in
As bakers look to invest in next generation technologies, MacKie said it would be crucial to have a skilled workforce with knowledge on how to run the lines.
“The skillsets that are going to be required to operate these systems will be very different from a few years ago,” he said, and training will be the key to success, particularly sustainable training.
“The days of a presentation in the lunch room are gone. Bakers want initial training and then follow-ons.”
MacKie said that this is something ABA is working on with supplier trade association BEMA (Bakery Equipment Manufacturers and Allieds).
“Training is a big issue. You’ve got a very mature workforce in industry where you’re able to train these folks but the skilled engineers are in very high demand,” he said.
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