year when we produce the Annual Replacement Parts directory issue of Food
Engineering, the trends we uncover in purchasing habits are pretty standard
fare. For example, it is no surprise that the number of food and beverage
manufacturers using the Internet to order parts has nearly doubled in the five
years we have been conducting the survey.
(See feature article beginning on page 12.)
One trend that took me by surprise is the growing role of the purchasing
department in parts and components buying decisions. Back in 2003, purchasing
staff was involved in recommending or evaluating suppliers, brands or models 18
percent of the time. Today, the role of the purchasing department in these
decisions has nearly doubled to 32 percent.
The good news is that maintenance and engineering staffs still control 90
percent of part and component needs determination. However, the growing role of
purchasing is a clear indicator of food and beverage manufacturers’ relentless
need to manage costs.
According to a recent report from the Small Business Research Board (SBRB), the
food industry must make certain that strong cost controls and employee training
programs are part of their operating recipe.
While the role of purchasing is evolving as a method to contain costs and
improve plant efficiency, training is a major area where things are moving too
slowly. The SBRB report hit the nail on
the head. For decades, plant worker training issues have continued to plague
As we all know, plant automation will continue to be one of the best ways to
squeeze costs out of food operations. While improved machinery, software and a
little help from the purchasing department will go a long way to improve
efficiency, a renewed commitment to basic employee training could make a world