Otto Rohwedder’s Invention

McLeod Governance today salutes the inventor of the sliced bread maker and his contribution – until today unrecognised by anyone … not even himself – in the justification of the risk advisory profession.

Otto Rohwedder of Iowa invented the first loaf-at-a-time bread-slicing machine.

A prototype he built in 1917 was destroyed in a fire, and it was not until 1928 that Rohwedder had a fully working machine ready. The first commercial use of the machine was by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Missouri, which produced their first slices on July 7, 1928.

St. Louis baker Gustav Papendick bought Rohwedder’s second bread slicer and set out to improve it by devising a way to keep the slices together at least long enough to allow the loaves to be wrapped. After failures trying rubber bands and metal pins, he settled on placing the slices into a cardboard tray.

The tray aligned the slices, allowing mechanized wrapping machines to function.

As an aside, during 1943, U. S. officials imposed a short-lived ban on sliced bread as a wartime conservation measure.


What does this have to do with risk?

Is this another feeble attempt by McLeod Governance to link two topics that have no real linkage?

Could it be that sliced bread has NO connection with risk (other than the danger of cutting one’s fingers off)?

Thankfully – at least for the purposes of this blog entry – there is a linkage.


Rohwedder took one of the oldest prepared foods – dating back to 10,000 BC – and represented it in such a way as to increase its usefulness and save the end user time that would have otherwise been spent slicing each and every piece of bread.

Correlate that now to the world of risk advisory.

Risk is not a new phenomenon (older than even bread) just as bread wasnt a new food when Rohwedder came onto the scene.

Nor is advising on those risks a fee generating service invented in recent times just as the profession of baking had long existed to satisfy hungry consumers.

Just as the bread consumers of the 1920s were aware of the many uses of bread, businesses are acutely (or at least should be) aware of their risks.

So in that sense advising on what risks they have is of limited benefit.

The true benefit of risk advisory is exactly what Rohwedder did for bread.

He repackaged it.

Just as Rohwedder was not a baker; risk advisors are not the owners of the risks on which they advise.

Risk advisory exists – in good times and bad – because there will always be a need for Management to have an independent assessment of the risks (dough … excuse the cutting edge humour!) they are making.

There is always a need for someone to repackage risk in a way that improves the usefulness of that information for the end consumer.

So in that moment just before you next criticise a risk advisor for telling you what you already know ask yourself – did you similarly complain the last time you had a piece of sliced bread?

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