Baking Management's Innovation Awards reveal the never-ending beat of progress in the baking industry
Even though they were reruns of reruns by the time I got to them, “The Jetsons” etched into my young brain what I thought the future was bound to hold. Flying cars, hovering homes, and robotic maids named Rosie seemed certain to be in the cards in my lifetime. But despite my patient waiting, the Jetsons’ promise of a jetpack-filled world had started to fade in my mind. That is, until a few weeks ago, when a visit to Automatic Rolls of North Carolina and a few minutes with robotic gantry pan stacker/unstacker revealed evidence of a Jetson future right here in the present.
The unyielding nature of innovation in any industry, baking included, often masks the sheer vastness of our progress. Only every so often is there a single, obvious leap forward–the web revolution might be a good example. More often than not, innovation is the aggregate of many small, incremental moves that can only be measured at a distance.
Though our present doesn’t look quite like the future that the Epcot Center predicted when I was a kid, it’s interesting to take stock of what conveniences are available that were science fiction not too long ago. For instance, I’m paying a bill or two, checking the White Sox score, talking with my wife and maybe ordering takeout this evening–all via a small handheld device in the span of my train ride home. That’s downright Jetsonian.
This month’s issue of Baking Management highlights our 2011 Innovation Awards, giving credit to those in the baking industry who are responsible for the slow march of progress toward efficiency, sustainability and new ways to think about food.
And innovation doesn’t exist for its own sake–there’s real utility in the forward-looking devices and products bakers and bakery suppliers are coming up with. The trick is marshalling multiple small progressions to make an impact. More than anything, this takes cooperation and partnership. Multiple innovations on a project are useless without shared direction and purpose. As remarkable as Northeast Foods’ gantry may be, it would be worthless without the careful design and cooperation between supplier and bakery engineer to hammer out their mutual goals. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but large scale innovation can’t exist unless everyone in development is aware of what that necessity is.
Each of this year’s Innovation Awards winners was inclusive in their progression. Northeast Foods’ engineering team partnered with suppliers to do new things. Awrey’s took their products to focus groups paring 30 potential flavors down to six proven winners. And Wausau Paper was engaged throughout the supply chain to achieve a sustainable pan liner.
Innovation is the result of multiple minds working in unison toward a common goal, and our winners all demonstrated that phenomenon.
Now if I could just get someone to work on that jetpack.