MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — AIB International is discontinuing several services, including a baking residence course that is nearly 100 years old, in its Manhattan headquarters. The closings come as online learning becomes more popular and AIB International’s client companies seek customized programs at their work sites.

“We’ve been listening to the industry, and what we’re finding is a real simple answer: ‘Come to our facility and configure the training that’s going to address my specific needs,’” said Andre Biane, president and chief executive officer of AIB International. “In other words, generic training and curriculum is kind of falling by the wayside.”

AIB International is expanding its offerings in private training, online learning, on-site consulting and food labeling services, he said. AIB International in 2018 delivered 394 in-person training courses in 43 countries.

The 16-week Baking Science and Technology residence course in Manhattan typically was offered twice a year, Biane said. A total of 194 classes have been completed. Along with the BS&T residence course, AIB International is discontinuing some research and development services, including pilot plant testing and analytic lab services, Biane said. Some food labeling and regulatory programs will remain. Management development for the food safety and sanitation professional will continue to be offered, just not in Manhattan.

The dropped programs were held at a facility in Manhattan that was built in the late 1970s. AIB International will discontinue the use of that facility.

“We are looking at a number of options for the older building, including the possibility of selling it if we can find a potential buyer,” Biane said.

AIB International opened a 10,000-square-foot facility in Manhattan in 2016. Staff from food safety services, the certification body, customer service, client development and marketing moved into the new building.

“That is where the vast majority of our Manhattan-based employees work,” Biane said.

AIB International is expanding in other areas.

Later this year AIB International will launch a bakery apprenticeship course. The new course will allow clients to choose from an assortment of topics, configure them to specific needs and choose a time frame. The bakery apprenticeship course will feature online learning as well as hands-on application and post-training consulting.

“The bakery apprenticeship program will satisfy the desires for baking companies to train their people and upscale their skills but can’t afford to send people to Manhattan for 16 weeks or longer,” Biane said.

Clients hiring AIB International experts to work on their sites also is gaining traction, he said. The AIB International employee may be an expert in food safety, sanitation, quality assurance management, integrated pest management, baking consulting or food labeling, depending on the need of the client.

“Those experts can spend a month or longer at a facility and just immerse themselves to help the organization improve,” Biane said. “We’ve seen this taken up by several clients, and it’s proven to be very valuable.”

A virtual inspector program involves training simulation that allows users to identify food safety issues throughout the plant environment and document findings.

As AIB International moves away from training in Manhattan to training at client-preferred sites, it brings a need for adequate facilities.

“We continue to try and find locations that can provide adequate critical mass for training purposes, as well as the right kind of equipment,” Biane said. “We may find a facility that’s set up for croissants, which would be good for a sweet goods-type of training. We may find another facility that’s better suited for bread, or artisan bread.”

AIB International will have a presence at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., Sept. 7-11 for those wanting to know more about the changes.

AIB International was founded as the American Institute of Baking in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., in 1919 to help the baking industry deal with the rationed supply of wheat and the growth of automation. The move to Manhattan came in 1977. Food safety and baking training online began in 2001. The name change to AIB International, which better reflected its global reach, came midway through the first decade of the new century.

AIB International’s staff includes experts in the fields of baking production, experimental baking, cereal science, nutrition, food safety and hygiene. In 2018, double-digit growth in both Global Food Safety Initiative certification audits and online training helped offset a continued decline in more traditional training formats. AIB International has simplified its offerings into four service categories: inspection and consulting, certification, training, and research and development services.

The move to discontinue some services in Manhattan and offer more services at client sites should allow clients to save money.

“It’s less expensive for a plant to pay for one (AIB International) trainer to come in for three or four days than it is for them to send five people off site for four or five days,” Biane said.