Andre Biane is the president of AIB International. In this role, he works closely with each department and service that AIB offers. As 2016 comes to a close, Biane speaks to the growth and positive outlook AIB has for 2017.
Question #1: As you look at 2016 results and company performance year to date, what are your main takeaways?
One of the main takeaways from 2016 is that we still delivered results in a time of challenge and change at AIB International. Similar to your own personal portfolio we had significant wins, several mediocre results, and a few disappointing situations. In 2016, we delivered several new products/services in response to client requests, industry needs, and regulatory requirements. These would include the Certified Bread Specialist - Industrial, multiple kill step validation calculators, and the FDA Preparedness Inspection. I'm very proud of our team for their work and it demonstrates our understanding of the needs in the food industry.
We have a strong team that is building deeper and stronger relationships with several of our strategic clients in the US, Latin America, and Europe. This is setting the stage for a strong 2017.
Question #2: Speaking of the future, how are you working to use the newly remodeled labs for the changing customer landscape?
With the renovated labs and pilot plants we can now leverage the flexibility to do custom R&D projects, private training, and public training in parallel and yet maintain the confidentiality required by clients. This flexibility has enabled quick turnaround for clients to get projects executed in accordance with their time table. This year, we have not turned one client away.
All this has enabled us to reconnect with the grain-based foods industry as the go to organization with technical talent and capabilities to help solve R&D problems. We are very grateful for the equipment upgrades provided by American Pan, Revent, AMF, Hobart, and Middleby.
Question #3: How important is growing our food safety portfolio to our growth strategy?
The success of our business is building the right food safety programs and culture, which in turn helps our clients protect their brands and their consumers. It's all about brand protection. As we have witnessed, the fragility of a brand is proportional to the confidence consumers have with it whether in the US, China, Mexico, UK, or elsewhere.
We carefully listen to our clients. Their challenges are different in diverse parts of the world. As an example FSMA will continue to be front and center for many companies operating in and exporting to the US. We have updated our Consolidated Standards for Inspection, renovated our Food Defense Coordinator seminar, introduced an FDA Preparedness Inspection, and licensed existing training to help clients meet the PCQI requirement according to FSMA. We have made a significant internal investment into our own food safety/QA program to help us improve the onboarding and ongoing evaluation and calibration of our food safety professional staff. Based on client feedback those efforts are paying off.
Question #4: As you look around the world, which markets performed well this year and which markets face challenges?
The North America Baking & Technical Services unit saw a 20% revenue growth over 2015 and we still have further room to grow. We have completed more client-based projects, private training, on site consulting/training, and labeling work in 2016 than ever before.
EMEA has had a steady volume increase from 2015. In 2016, we began to understand our operational utilization much better. We found that we have been overstaffed in parts of our LATAM and in APAC regions. To better align with our current activity levels we converted to a hybrid model. Under this model, we now have a mix of full time food safety professionals on staff and a group of approved independent contractors in those two regions.
In China, we now have a new GM on board and can already see the difference this will make in collaborating with existing and new clients as we head into 2017.
Question #5: What is your looking forward statement for 2017?
Globally, the food safety risk to multinational brands has never been higher. That means one pillar of our mission will never change. We will continue to help our clients build the right food safety programs for their entire supply chain. Because at the end of the day it’s all about protecting their brand and the trust they have with their customers.
In 2017, we will continue to simplify our business making life easier for our clients and employees. This means implementing information systems that help us eliminate manual and redundant activities. We will continue to apply LEAN principles to eliminate non-value added activities from our business processes. With these savings we will invest in having the right talent with the right skillsets that will further help provide our clients with better solutions and thereby grow our business.
I’m looking forward to the challenges and results we can achieve in 2017. Planning and executing services our clients need and in return generating profitable year for AIBI.