Food Engineering

As the recession ends, look for profitability within human assets

October 1, 2009
There’s no escape from the news reports discussing whether or not the recession is over. If we are eking out of it, the official proclamation of the end is bound to be at least six months away.

There’s no escape from the news reports and talk-show pundits discussing whether or not the recession is over. If we are, in fact, eking out of it now, the official proclamation of the end is bound to be at least six months away.

All media are trying to predict the future, and the food and beverage manufacturing industry is no exception. In fact, Food Engineering has been gazing into its crystal ball for the past 30 years with its annual cover story on the State of Food Manufacturing.

It’s no surprise that cost cutting continues to be top of mind this year. Food processors continue to increase production for the home meal market, while the public still cries out for healthy meals. Once the recession is truly over, it will be interesting to see if consumers became more health conscious while eating at home or chose to hunker down with calorie-laden comfort foods.

But beyond consumer trends, FE readers are concerned with an increasing emphasis on the global economy and the smartest ways to garner the best use and control of their supply chains. Overall, continuous improvement, sustainability and food safety will remain the top three key initiatives for the foreseeable future.

Processors are being asked to perform these key initiatives with shrinking budgets. In fact, average budget increases for equipment, controls and software are significantly down compared to the last several years, leaving me to wonder how food makers will be able to accomplish their plans with dwindling resources.

Now may be the right time for the food and beverage industry to address one of its more elusive issues: the need for highly skilled workers.

If I were to predict the future, I’d say the resurgence of self-directed work teams and Kaizen events may be in the offing. With shrinking budgets for equipment purchases, manufacturers will be forced to increasingly rely on their human assets and intellectual property for profitability.