Sustainability, globalization, productivity and innovation top the list of key challenges confronting the food and beverage industry. In the face of regulation and customer concerns, manufacturers look for ways to improve margins while delivering the quality assurance that consumers expect.
During today's Food and Beverage Industry Forum at Rockwell Automation's Automation Fair in Philadelphia, suppliers and manufacturers provided experiences and thoughts about how manufacturers today can improve product consistency, throughput, data gathering and reporting.
Kris Dornan, marketing projects manager, Rockwell Automation, began the session by outlining what Rockwell Automation finds to be the key needs and interests of food and beverage consumers and, by default, the food and beverage industry that serves them. He broke this down into a few categories. "There's a demand for new products," Dornan said. "So how do you innovate to provide that? You might make beer. How do you make yours better than your competitors? As suppliers, how do you support those needs?"
Next, there's customer satisfaction, Dornan said. "If you buy an Oreo cookie, it always has to taste like an Oreo cookie, today, tomorrow and in the future." Supply chain integration is critical, too. "There's capacity variability, many other companies involved in that process, so how do you manage that?" Dornan asked.
And of course there's food safety and its accompanying regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, a sweeping legislative action that in the United States will impact the data gathering and sharing activities of food and beverage companies with its eventual implementation, particularly in food processing segments that previously were not regulated.
JLS Automation provides automation solutions for the food industry focused on primary and secondary packaging operations, and its president, Craig Souser, presented a brief overview of its implications to machine builder and, by extension, the industry's manufacturing companies
"FSMA is a mandate of best practices," reported Souser. "The good news is that it's science-based. I think they did it right."