For nearly 100 years, professionals from cookie and cracker manufacturing industry have been gathering in an educational setting to collaboratively learn about trends, technology, formulation, and processes to solve most glaring problems in operations around the world. This year’s TechCon built on the strong educational foundation and expanded to live up to this year’s theme: Power of Bakery.
The 93rd annual conference, hosted in downtown Atlanta, invited operations leaders to a three-day intensive conference. Hands-on workshops, niche presentations, KSU-accredited sessions, and a fun twist on a Shark Tank-like pitch competition brought new energy to the room. From October 20-23, 2019, networking and a whirlwind of sessions took place at the Marriott Marquis. Take a look.
The Bakery Cos. CEO Cordia Harrington shared her inspiring journey as a leader in the baking industry and how she scaled her business across the Southeast and nationwide.
Her keynote speech shared ups and downs in operations as the Tennessee Bun Company and the challenges behind customer acquisition of big brands like McDonald’s.
She persisted over time to become one of the fast-food restaurant’s “bakers” and succeeded, despite having no previous experience. Today, her company produces more than eight million baked goods per day. The Bakery Cos. Masada Facility treated attendees to goods from the bakery as well as a bakery tour at the end of the conference.
Attendees came early on Tuesday morning to take part in the latest edition of IncuBAKER, a Shark Tank-style pitch competition where teams brainstorm challenges and come up with the best solutions. Tables had a randomized mix of attendees from different parts of the baking industry, across generations, and hierarchy. A panel of experts judged the presentations after three hours of workshopping. Innovative ideas came from every group, including 3D printing, sustainable packaging, new management styles, and worker safety.
Blockchain and new clean labeling approaches made their way into this year’s breakout sessions. Another popular session focused on the new parameters of “clean labeling” and how it plays into full-scale production. Attendees learned more about marketing claims, clean versus quality, and how to be responsible while choosing clean ingredients.
New technologies are helping industries, such as baking, create a safer environment for consumers in light of several recalls, like the romaine lettuce scare a few years back. Howard Popoola from The Kroger Co. discussed how blockchain, a secure digitized ledger platform, can be used to track consumer goods from farms to the store and the consumer’s hands.
Using blockchain technology in the supply chain allows for more transparency in the industry. In the case of a recall, businesses can more quickly find the culprit without wasting product or scaring consumers.
Other sessions included overcoming generational gaps, front-line leadership advice, batch mixing in today’s bakeries, and others.
Leaders find solutions
The conference encouraged networking among cookie and cracker manufacturing professionals to discuss how to improve facilities and products through new technologies, education, and vendor relationships. Sharing solutions among them through team-building exercises and productive talks while attending baker-specific education sessions.
One especially inspiring talk that re-energized the room was Steve Garguilo’s The Science of Taking Action. Garguilo’s unique perspective on how to take action when faced with a challenge and useful examples — such as how a woman that had her sights set on joining Airbnb corporate created a unique resume online to catch their attention. Thinking outside the box while using data from your employees can help your company move forward more effectively.
This year’s conference packed tons of education into just a few days and continues to be the only conference like it anywhere.