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Top Concerns of Food Manufacturers

A recent survey conducted by Food Processing Magazine (www.fponthenet.net) has highlighted the following five issues as some of the Food Industry’s top concerns.

1. SKILLS DEVELOPMENT

One operations manager said it’s important to find out how to make manufacturing in general, and food processing specifically, attractive to graduates and school leavers. A project manager specified skills as her most pressing concern. She wanted more information on ''skills for the future including apprenticeships and any specific skills required for the food industry.''

2. LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

This is an increasingly important part of the sector for several reasons. One is that most retailers will deal with a food manufacturer only if it meets all standards required by a variety of legislative demands. These range from food hygiene, safety, packaging, labelling and waste management to machinery directives.

One operations manager said that ''introducing technology to assist (engineers) in complying with all current food safety practices,'' would be helpful. ''Engineers by default do not respond well to endless paperwork. A managing director pointed out that one concern is that some engineering standards in the food industry impact the end-user. ''Engineering standards are often excellent but without any obvious assessment to the hygiene of the equipment.''

3. NEW TECHNOLOGIES

It may sound obvious but food manufacturers across all sectors want to know about new technologies on the market, and they want to know how these can benefit their plant. Clearly, there is an appetite for information among manufacturers with respect to new technology. But, crucially, this technology doesn't always have to be machinery. As one MD pointed out ''New technologies and techniques are needed to communicate with end-users, employees and others in industry. (These will help) identify, satisfy and retain customers in a personal, charismatic way.''

An operations manager pointed out that there can be some crossover between important topics. For instance, new technology can be used to assist engineers in complying with all current food safety practices. A health & safety advisor at a food plant listed new technologies in meat production and packaging machinery, including robotic equipment, as his biggest talking point.

4. PLANT MAINTENANCE

Once manufacturers have their machinery in place, they need to ensure it is properly maintained. The survey shows this is an important part of the job, and that most engineers want to know how they can keep their plant better maintained. Maintenance takes on particular importance in a fragile economy because food companies cannot simply go out and buy new equipment each time the old equipment fails. One engineering manager said his biggest interest is reading articles or listening to talks about plant reliability.

He added that it’s important to know the costs of buying new machinery versus maintaining the old. Information regarding the ''long-term asset care of 'mature' plant'' was also crucial. Another engineering manager said ''equipment reliability strategies''; this falls under plant maintenance because a plant that isn't correctly maintained won't be reliable. Furthermore, strategies are needed to proactively deal with any maintenance issues down the line.

5. ENGINEERING DESIGN

Improvements in engineering design of food processing equipment were highlighted by several respondents as important. One pointed out that stitch welding is cheaper to design and produce, harder to clean and presents a higher risk to the end user. He added that illogical use of ferrous metals in food production equipment was a problem. There is the “inefficient dismantling capabilities of food processing equipment”. The respondent was referring to the smaller items of equipment that often need engineering assistance or multiple screws, nuts and bolts to remove to dismantle the kit for cleaning.

Read more about the survey - www.fponthenet.net - November 2012