The American Bakers Association (ABA) is the Washington D.C.- based voice of the wholesale baking industry with a history of over 120 years and main sponsor of IBIE, directly involved in the organizing specific educational sessions at the event.
Robb MacKie, the association’s president and CEO, spoke to us about the trends and the challenges within the industry, the expectations of Generation Z, and what the education program brings this year.
ABA advocates on behalf of more than 1,000 baking facilities and baking company suppliers and their members, an industry generating more than USD153bn in economic activity annually and employing more than 799,500 highly skilled people.
IBIEducate is the fair’s most complex education program to date. Why do you consider this component important?
The educational program is even bigger at IBIE 2019 than it was in 2016 with a full day of programming before the show floor opens. IBIEducate will bring new ideas to light, provide unique training opportunities, and allow you to connect with industry experts and innovators. ABA is a key partner for IBIEducate, contributing 16 sessions – of the 100 total sessions – to the largest baking program in the world. Attendees are excited to be able to not only walk the show floor and interact with the latest industry trends but also gain new knowledge about specific topics they can bring back to their companies.
Three years ago, ABA and the American Society of Baking (ASB) set forth a framework for solutions and programs to help fill the workforce gap in the industry. What has happened in the three years since?
A key element of ABA’s new Strategic Plan is workforce development. We are developing a toolkit and media campaign to share great opportunities for careers in the baking industry. We also are working closely with the USO Pathfinders program to interact with US servicemen and women who are leaving military service. We have an event at the IBIE in September. Lastly, we have organized the Bakers Industry Alliance of all of the baking industry associations to explore a potential apprenticeship program for bakers.
How do automation, artificial intelligence, and robots influence employment and what do you expect to happen in the next years?
One of the key findings from the ABA-ASB Workforce Skills Gap study was the need to prepare for the bakery workforce of the future. Much of the automation and process improvements bakers are implementing are designed to eliminate low-value activities. This, however, means the skills the industry will depend upon will require different technical and engineering skills as well as problem-solving and troubleshooting skills.
What are the most stringent problems to be solved in the American bakery industry in order for it to become a more sustainable sector?
ABA’s highly successful partnership with the EPA Energy Star program has demonstrated improvements in the baking industry’s energy utilization. With over 120 facilities in the program, the energy use and resulting cost saving shave bolstered the industry’s bottom line. In addition, ABA has led the industry to work toward zero waste of other materials in the baking facilities. There are exciting developments in the industry, but more work needs to be done.
What are the trends we should look for? Please refer to insights from ABA members.
Trends on the rise that we expect to see at IBIE include artisan bakery, which will have a dedicated space at the show in the Artisan Marketplace, personalization, and cannabis in baked goods. You will also see several IBIEducate sessions that focus specifically on engineering, sanitation, and operations. We sometimes say that what you see now at IBIE is what will actually be happening in five years.
You can read more in our print magazine Asia Pacific Baker & Biscuit (Summer 2019)