Over the past year we have been doing a lot of behind the scenes research into what makes food manufacturers tick. This month's cover story featuring our 24th Annual Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey reveals that most of you are happy in your careers and are doing pretty well compared with both the average American's and the average engineer's salary.

But no job is perfect, and we all are being asked to produce more with less staff and shrinking budgets. Another FE research project conducted earlier this year on the State of Food Manufacturing revealed that the top issues facing food processors include food safety initiatives, increased application of automation, product traceability, systems integration, supply chain integration, increased production capability and systematic maintenance improvement.

In most plants the projects listed above are ongoing and must become part of routine operations. Now add to your overworked schedule a new product launch that requires major changes to both processing and packaging lines.

My goal is not to ruin your holiday season, but rather to give you a very happy new year.

Food Engineering has uncovered a process to help food companies identify their most important manufacturing initiatives and then quickly connect with the right solution suppliers.

In the fall of 2004 Food Engineering will launch a new strategic event unlike any industry meeting you have attended. The event is called ProcessingTechnologyXchange (PTX) and its goal is to foster highly customized and confidential discussions. Senior engineering and operations staffs from food and beverage manufacturing companies will meet, in private conference suites, with the key senior management team of major processing and packaging equipment solution and service providers.

Only processors with active capital equipment and service initiatives for the balance of 2004 and 2005 will be invited to participate. A member of the Food Engineering staff will interview each food company's senior team. This information will be summarized in a white paper that will be used both to match the processors with appropriate vendor solutions, and to provide these vendors with ample background to prepare for the on-site meetings. Multiple, private meetings with various vendors will be scheduled over a 2 to 3 day period.

Once the matches are made, suppliers and food companies will be able to use the 6-week period before the actual meeting to exchange information on a secure Xtranet. The purpose is to ensure that all meetings are productive, top-level strategic and substantial exchanges.

For more information on this event, please contact Layne Skoyen at lskoyen@pt-xchange.com or visit www.pt-xchange.com. PTX will be held September 26-29, 2004 in Park City, Utah.