IBIE Q&A: Avoiding pitfalls when building a bigger and better bakery

Dave Watson has earned his stripes when it comes to designing and building bakeries. For nearly 40 years in the food industry, he’s seen it all, from good and bad startups and great planning to the lack of it.

Currently an expert in food, bakery and snacks engineering at The Austin Co., Mr. Watson gained his expertise from his experience at Pepperidge Farm and Campbell Soup Co. There he started as an engineer of project, then managed the design and construction of Pepperidge Farm. flagship factory in Denver, Penn., which opened in the early 1990s with robotics and other advanced technologies at the time.

During the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) 2022, he will share his experience during his presentation: Designed for Success – Making the Right Choices for Your Bakery, which will be held on Saturday, September 17 at 8:30 am and Sunday, September 18. , at 11 o’clock

“This presentation will help identify the pitfalls and issues that have created bad projects and help give bakers of all sizes a much more successful project,” he said.

An active member of numerous baking industry associations, Mr. Watson is currently a member of the IBIE committee, having served there since 2010.

Dave Watson, The Austin Co.
Source: Dave Watson

Looking back on your career, how has technology changed over time?

If you go back to the late 1980s when Pepperidge Farm was growing, the technology wasn’t where it is today. We were pushing the technology beyond what it could offer at the time. Because of this, it created a lot of problems to run the plant. Today, systems, controls and robotics have gone much further. They are much easier to set up, maintain and use. Employees become more computer literate and adopt technology more quickly. This is a major change from then to now.

How have the construction and design of bakeries improved?

In the 1980s, bakery facilities had to be built with precast concrete to create a truly sanitary environment. Today, with insulated metal panels, you get a more cost-effective project with materials that are much easier to clean and maintain. There is also more emphasis on people’s comfort than in the past. The ability to hire and retain a workforce has put more emphasis on employee comfort, whether that means paying more attention to air conditioning areas and more break rooms. . We are also preparing for the operation to further space people out just in case we have a resurgence of COVID and to make employees feel safer. It’s something we didn’t think about 20 years ago.

Which is more difficult: expanding or renovating a factory or building a new one?

They all have their challenges. When expanding, you need to keep your existing lines running, which puts more emphasis on coordinating the business, so you don’t have contractors in your bakery where you make products. At the same time, you must maintain a tight construction schedule. Coordination between the bakery and external contractors is extremely critical. You don’t want food safety issues like introducing dust to your production area. You need a strong focus between maintaining your existing operations and expanding. In open-field factories, the challenges mean that resources are stretched. Your future leaders may take care of the design and start-up, but you may no longer focus on maintaining your existing operations. I’ve seen many times when resources are overstretched and the efficiency of existing operations drops because it’s so much more fun to be involved in a brand new plant.

What new technology do you expect to see at IBIE?

We are going to see more technologies like automated guided vehicles, artificial intelligence or collaborative robotics. These are going to play a bigger role in the bakeries of the future. The IBIE also allows bakers to get to know leading American and international companies in their respective technologies. It will help people in five years to determine where they want to go long term with their facilities.

How do you approach the IBIE as a bakery engineer?

I always strive for a focused visit with enough time to meet with vendors on short to medium term products, while allowing enough time to look at the technology from a longer term perspective. At IBIE, we’re going to see the latest technologies that not everyone is ready for, but which will help you as a baker plan for the future.