T he alarm goes off, but the day doesn’t begin until I’ve had my first cup of tea and a look through my emails.
Today I’m due at a bakery so I scoop up my notes and recipes, check that the car is loaded up with samples and my trusty tool-box and head off, picking up breakfast on the way.
The routine at the bakeries I visit will vary according to what I am doing. Today it’s troubleshooting so we begin with some detective work in the form of an in-depth discussion with the production manager about the problem, followed by a review of the process in action.
Process and product trials follow this on the same day so we begin with a review of the objectives, the doughs to be made and the proposed timetable.
Fermex supplies a wide range of improvers, concentrates, speciality years and technical products, so there’s always an ingredient to help a specific problem. After quick cup of coffee and we start on the trials.
On other occasions I conduct training sessions with our customers’ staff. On those days the first thing to do is to prepare the meeting room with flip chart and projector, props and notebooks, making sure there are enough chairs for everyone. After introductions all round to break the ice, the session begins.
Time for a break and a caffeine intake! Depending on the type of product I am working on, by this time it will be either bulk fermenting, in the prover or even in the cooler.
I take the opportunity to check my phone for messages while there is a natural break in the process and deal with any urgent matters arising.
This is also a chance for a chat with the customer. These sort of conversations can be about the industry generally or about specific issues that the customer has with a product or a process. After coffee, it’s back to the trenches!
Lunch is always a moveable feast for me. As the saying goes ’time and tide wait for no man’, well neither does yeast, so lunch has to fit in around the bread making!
Today I manage to grab a sandwich at around 1.00pm. I have been known to have lunch as early as 10:30am and as late as 5:45pm; but whatever time of day it is, this is a further opportunity to catch up with phone messages.
This is also the time for the first review of the progress of the plant trials that have taken place in the morning. Even if the dough hasn’t reached the oven yet, there are always processing and dough rheology issues that can be analysed and discussed.
Some days I may be involved in training rather than running trials. On a typical training day, the first session will have finished by now with questions and answers, and there will be time to rearrange the room ready for the afternoon session. There is also time for me to reflect on whether I have managed to make the subject clearer or foggier for the trainees!
In these sessions I am usually trying to give a basic understanding of ingredients and processes to help line operatives appreciate why specific things, such as dough temperatures, are important for achieving final product quality and optimum plant throughput combined with waste reduction.
Thankfully the bread making process today isn’t a particularly long one, so the bread is now baked and ready for assessment.
I have a debriefing session with the customer, which includes a recap of the objectives and trials undertaken, along with a discussion of any specific issues that have arisen during the day.
We cut the bread and assess its characteristics according to the specification. The team then agrees recommendations and makes decisions with regard to further work.
It’s time to head for the hills and join the delights of rush hour traffic, but first another check for messages on the mobile.
On the way home I switch into ’domestic’ mode and try to decide what to cook for the family supper.
Tomorrow, I will be sitting at the computer at home working on specifications and later on this week, it’s a training session for a group of bakers.
Finally get home and I quickly write my ’to do’ list for tomorrow. Then it’s time to turn my attention to the evening meal.
It’s been a busy day, but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the things I love most about my job is the way that no two days are ever the same.
On any given day I may be demonstrating Fermex products to potential customers or I may be helping existing customers to develop new products. On other days I’m in the office at home dealing with specifications and samples or writing up reports.
Troubleshooting, training and process auditing are also part of my remit, so describing a ’typical’ day is quite difficult! What’s for sure, is that I’ll be doing something different tomorrow. n