IBIE Q&A: Bakeries must face the future of maintenance

After more than 40 years working on bakery assets in factories across the country, Rowdy Brixey, President of Brixey Engineering, Inc., has learned how to operate production lines and why they break down, often in ways unexpected.

That’s why the famous Pro Tips columnist for Baking & Snacking leads two training sessions at IBIE 2022.

His talk on The Future of Maintenance on Monday, September 19 at 9:45 a.m. will focus on what commercial bakeries need to do to maintain a proper maintenance culture, especially in a time when the lack of skilled labor is wider than ever.

A second session titled Quick and Easy KPIs that Drive Improved Maintenance will be held on Tuesday, September 20 at 8:30 a.m. Its goal is to provide the public with a few simple options for establishing maintenance KPIs that drive visibility and improvement.

Both classes are designed to help bakeries adapt to the inevitable maintenance and engineering challenges of years to come.

Why should people attend your sessions instead of browsing the show?

Over the years I have developed a keen understanding of what is essential and not everything. Come to IBIE and learn how to stop wasting time inspecting non-critical assets and components and refocus your resources where you can get the most bang for your buck. Asset reliability is like a cup of water with a small hole in the bottom. As you use the asset, reliability slips away. My approach helps you learn new techniques to prevent cups from emptying based on criticality and data that helps you understand which cup matters most and when you should go do something before you find a dry cup.

Has the maintenance service changed in the last five years?

Yes and no. Yes, capacity constraints and labor shortages have made the job more difficult, but bakery assets are unaware of such occurrences and still need the same service.

What prompted this change?

COVID really accelerated the labor issue, but it was coming both ways. The pool of potential interview applicants has shrunk and the average age of the group continues to grow.

How prepared are bakeries for maintenance in the future?

Unfortunately, many businesses, not just bakeries, are behind. Let’s face it: maintenance is hard work even when a bakery is staffed entirely by experienced associates, and when they start to fall behind in their work, it can become nearly impossible to catch up without help.

What is essential to maintaining an appropriate maintenance culture?

Absolute relentless tracking. You have to be the best juggler in the world to follow all the pieces. Think of it like spinning plates on a stick that someone else is holding. How long can you keep spinning before they all fall apart? The development part is rotation and backtracking to spin those who are about to stop. A sustainable culture is when those holding the baton begin to take ownership and continue to spin the plates without your constant involvement. It becomes sustainable when it is an integral part of how we operate.

What will be the costs if you fail to maintain a bakery in the future?

Ultimately, all businesses are about making money. Maintenance is an overhead — overhead charged to cost of goods sold. A company can lose its competitive advantage if the maintenance service fails to keep the lines running smoothly and at a cost comparable to that of its competitors. Reduced orders, late shipments, inconsistent quality, high wastage, and high maintenance costs can all be fatal to the bottom line.