Five trends in food processing plants

2015 carries a fresh set of expectations. To prepare for the changes, here are five predicted trends that will drive food manufacturing.


2015 carries a fresh set of trends. To prepare for the changes, here are five predicted trends that will drive food manufacturing. Courtesy: StellarEach new year carries a fresh set of trends, opportunities and challenges. To celebrate the start of 2015, I've forecasted five trends I expect to drive food manufacturing in the months ahead. 

1. Innovative solutions to drive down costs

With the advent of the Internet and pricing transparency for consumers, pressures are rising for food manufacturers to be low cost. They are trying to find ways to drive more value, looking for:

  • Innovations that can help maintain profitability
  • New products to bring to market
  • Modifications to product categories

Food manufacturers are also on the hunt for more cost-effective means of manufacturing, standardizing equipment and exploring automation to minimize labor costs.

For example, take Southwest Airlines' business model. Southwest has kept its costs down by only flying Boeing 737s, which reduces spending in areas such as training and spare parts. This same mentality can be applied to food processing.

Food manufacturers can move towards innovation and the standardization of certain product categories to drive down their own costs. First, food processors must rethink their manufacturing strategies, optimizing what makes sense and developing a new cost model. In the long run, they need to have the flexibility to run products with higher margins without taking away from their companies' "bread and butter."

Companies are trying to get better visibility into the true cost of manufacturing products. Whereas before they may have looked at the profitability of a plant, they're now diving deeper, examining the profitability of a product category, manufacturing line or even a particular stock keeping unit (SKU).

2. Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency has been buzzing for a while among consumers, and in 2015, it continues to attract the spotlight in the food processing realm. This is driven in large part by a shift in consumers who are concerned with the environment and what they're putting into their bodies.

At Stellar, we've been able to help our clients examine sustainability programs and how they can reduce energy consumption to not only appeal to consumers, but to drive costs down, as well. By reducing energy consumption, food manufacturers are reducing costs and increasing margins.

3. Healthier, natural foods

Along that same vein, because consumers have become more aware of what they're eating, there's been increasing interest in organic and natural foods. From a manufacturing standpoint, this presents more challenges in terms of equipment types and how materials are processed. The handling is different for these products, impacting how lines are set up and operated.

If a bakery is gluten free, for example, the processing is entirely different than if you were to use standard ingredients due to concerns over ingredient separation and cross contamination.

4. A refrigeration strategy

Another area that's been generating a lot of interest is refrigeration compliance. Companies want to take an active role in developing a refrigeration strategy for 2015, driven by OSHA mandates. Due to its damage to the atmosphere, food manufacturers must phase out R-22 refrigerants and move toward natural options such as CO2 by the year 2020.

Right now, food manufacturers are making plans for the shift. There are new technologies and developments emerging around refrigeration and distribution such as skid-mounted refrigeration systems that embrace CO2 instead of ammonia. While ammonia is an environmentally friendly refrigerant, we've noticed clients asking for ways they can reduce their ammonia charge to below 10,000 pounds to reduce costs associated with process safety management (PSM) compliance.

However, to respond to food manufacturers utilizing 10,000 or more pounds of ammonia, Stellar has continued to focus on digital PSM services. These help food processors keep a finger on the pulse of their compliance efforts. Because it's digital and cloud-based, it allows food manufacturers to monitor and manage their compliance efforts from one, central point.

5. China: A potential growth vehicle

Due to the emergence of its middle class, large food and beverage companies are now seeing China as a potential growth vehicle. This can also be attributed to the Chinese population's food safety concerns, including fears about contamination and ingredients from Chinese companies.

Because U.S. companies have respected reputations regarding food safety and product quality, Chinese consumers are willing to pay premiums for their products. Many multinational companies are now capitalizing on this opportunity to move into the Chinese market.

Todd Allsup has more than 26 years of experience in the construction industry including profit and loss responsibility, design, project management, construction field support and operational management. This article originally appeared on Stellar Food for Thought. Stellar is a CFE content partner. Edited by Joy Chang, digital project manager, CFE Media,

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me