Editor's Note: Getting back to basics in food manufacturing

May 9, 2003
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EARLIER IN MY CAREER, I HAD A BOSS who used to make all the underlings write a memo detailing the significance of every trip they took outside the office. I don’t know if he was trying to torture all of us cub reporters, teach us to respect the value of our limited travel budget, or help us hone our analytical skills.

Upon returning from a recent trip, I found myself making a list of some of the things I had learned. This is not my usual MO. But the trip I was returning from had a lot to do with my motivation for this particular memo to myself. It was Food Engineering’s annual Food Automation and Manufacturing Conference .

Some of following may not be news to you, but is a good reminder of how simple things can be the best answer to complex problems.

1. For years consumers have been buying products such as cereal and snacks and repacking them at home in zipper bags. Witness today’s popularity of recloseability. Kind of makes you wonder why this packaging trend didn’t happen a lot sooner and what we may now also be overlooking.

2. The changeover flexibility you need today may not be the flexibility you need two years from now. A million dollar mothballed machine could cost you your job. Savvy manufacturers are looking at leasing equipment rather than purchasing.

3. In an era of plant closings and company consolidation, professionalism may be your best ally. Down the road, your next job could be from the guy who just axed your plant.

4. Plant integration is not always a necessity. Each plant, each line has its personality and needs. Keep it simple and don’t over-engineer.

Looking for a few brilliant minds

As you may have noticed on the cover of each issue this year, FE is celebrating its 75th anniversary. We will be publishing a special edition in September that includes the history of the food industry in the 20th Century as seen through Food Engineering’s eyes. Of course we will be covering innovative processing and packaging technologies, but all of the innovations of the past 75 years would not be possible without the brilliant minds of food industry people. In the 50th anniversary issue back in 1978, the FE editors put together a Food Industry Hall of Fame to honor great innovators such as Clarence Birdseye, Jay Hormel, Felix Germino and Al Clausi.

In today’s multinational, time pressed and consolidated food industry environment, putting together a compendium of industry innovators is quite a task. We need your help. Consider this a call for nominations to the Food Engineering Industry Hall of Fame. Nominations of food or beverage company innovators should include a 150 word bio and photo of the person nominated. The bio should include a brief description of the outstanding impact the nominee has had on the food industry. The name of food company or association submitting the entry will also be included in the hall of fame. Entries are due July 1, 2003 and can be emailed to We hope many of you will take the time to bring this important project to the attention of your corporate public relations departments.

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