Everything that is currently doing the rounds about estimates of the coronavirus pandemic’s impacts is still derived from past global crises, and is not very specific or relates only to individual sectors. baking+biscuit
asked around and heard assessments of the crisis by suppliers to the industry, and how they are responding to it.
Signals from the baking sector differ as much as the structure of the businesses themselves. News reports day after day carried photos showing empty bread shelves. While trade suppliers activated all their spare production capacities, the situation among artisans, catering and chain stores looked quite different.
By using to-go concepts and deliveries, companies with a large proportion of catering were forced to attempt almost overnight to prevent the turnover collapse becoming life-threatening. Moreover, all the artisans suffered from consumers reducing their shopping trips and visiting as few businesses as possible, which tended to favor the food retail and prepacked goods on bread shelves.
“Please maintain social distancing” is the order of the day in shops. All those that have them use drive-in counters. In double-quick time, others open a pop-up drive-in at a former filling station. Opportunities to cushion losses are also available on the web. It’s the age of online stores and delivery services.
How bakery machine constructors are dealing with the crisis
How is the corona crisis affecting your business?
To date, our activity is of course slowed down by logistical aspects, but our plant remains operational. Once having implemented the required hygiene and distancing rules very early, a majority of our technicians are on site. All employees who have this possibility are working from home and are connected daily by videoconference (administration, sales services, design offices, etc.).
We operate in the food and health sectors, which are very much in demand to meet the basic needs of consumers. So even if the restaurants and hotels no longer order, our customers are rather very active and our activity is not stopped, far from it. Today, it is essentially slowed down by logistical aspects and travel made difficult or even impossible in some cases.
Are there any effects on deliveries and installations?
We depends on transport indeed, so this implies longer border crossings, but again we are not at a standstill. Our installations continue in compliance with sanitary rules, from VMI to our customers. The lack of carpooling, temperature measurements, personal equipment, disinfection of surfaces necessarily takes more time than normal, but we remain 100% operational.
How do Corona measures affect service?
Our service also remains active and operational. Resources are now dedicated to providing all the technical assistance our customers need, since we are less in demand on other services, such as site audits, preventive maintenance or face-to-face training. Our teams in contact with customers are teleworking and can even intervene remotely on the equipment set up for this. We are also organized to be able to ship spare parts every day. Our reception, our store and our shipments are also in normal working order.
How is your supply of raw materials currently?
After having experienced a slowdown at the announcement of the first containment measures, we now have a large majority of our suppliers who have resumed their activity. So we have no problem with the supply of raw materials, but only downturns in the supply chain.
Did you register short-time work/did you have to fire employees?
We know our luck to support industries operating in economic sectors that are much less affected than others. Our role is to adapt to the current slowdown affecting all the countries, to be ready for the rebound of post-containment, while facing the coming recession, even if it would affect the sectors in which we operate less. VMI has not dismissed personnel. In this period when operations are slowing down, we have asked our employees not to keep the days off they could have left when the tasks assigned to them are insufficient, this is already the first measure to take into account consistency with the context.
Do you have special offers for your customers facing the corona crisis?
Our standard design equipment is the easiest to ship, since we started manufacturing a few weeks ago. We are already in demand by our customers for our singletool or double-tool kneaders, with fixed or removable bowl, and for kneading systems with bowl and forklift to meet current demand in bakeries. We can easily offer this type of equipment as part of special offers with very short deadlines.
What are you planning for the post-Corona period?
It would be very risky today to speculate on the duration of the crisis, its scale or the concrete impact on our activities. But we are certain that we will have to reinvent ourselves and face times that will certainly be difficult, while driving flexibility and mobility for our customers.
Beyond the crisis itself, we are seeing underlying trends which will certainly be strengthened. Hygiene measures, control of production methods and the absence of cross-
contamination will certainly be reinforced in environments where we will again have to face threats of a virological or bacterial order. Our expertise in mixing process solutions for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, sometimes in confined and / or sterile environments, is undeniably an asset. From materials, to certifications and quality controls, to washing and sterilization technologies in place: we are armed to fully respond to this trend which is likely to develop in bakeries where we already bring cleaning systems, very effective and nevertheless economical to avoid cross-pollution.
The traceability of production and the origin of ingredients will also remain a major concern for our customers, and will even be reinforced. Our management and supervision solutions, data feedback for process improvement and production traceability are operational. Associated with our sister companies of Linxis Group, we are able to meet broader and turnkey needs for line supervision and global traceability.
The article is part of an extended feature, which was originally published in [BBI 3 – 2020]. Read the full article in the magazine: