Just after the 4th of July holiday every year, the needs of our readers weigh heavy on the minds of the Food Engineering staff. While we try to fill the pages of the magazine every month with information to help you and your plant perform more efficiently, sometimes there are better ways of getting information out to the food industry.

Back in the dog days of summer, we started to put together what we think is a dynamite program for Food Engineering's annual conference called Food Automation & Manufacturing. Under the theme of "Juggling Food Manufacturing's Non-stop Challenges," we have assembled an outstanding group of speakers from both small and large food and beverage manufacturing companies to address issues such as food safety, complex changeovers, fast-track project implementation, and automation software.

At Food Automation & Manufacturing 2004, speakers from companies such as General Mills, Welch's, Ben & Jerry's, PepsiCo and Kraft will focus their presentations on the best practices within their facilities. This two and a half day event will be held April 19-21 in Sarasota, FL.

I strongly suggest you take a look at our program found on pages 10 to 12 in this issue. Why? Year after year, the Food Automation and Manufacturing Conference & Expo has received rave reviews from more than 90 percent of the food and beverage manufacturing companies that have attended in the past. At this event you will not only have the opportunity to learn from the presentations of proven industry leaders, you will also get a chance to meet many of them personally and ask detailed questions about their plant operations to help you improve yours. Those of you who have attended past Food Engineering events know that we encourage a very relaxed, comfortable atmosphere that encourages networking, interaction and fun.

At this year's conference, we will also continue our tradition of gathering leading vendors in an expo held during the first afternoon and the second morning of the conference. Attendees may visit more than 60 booths. In addition, some suppliers will be presenting the latest technology in a special Solutions Theater, which is open to all attendees.

Food Automation and Manufacturing combines over 15 hours of presentations by your manufacturing peers and over 5 hours of time to gather information from suppliers.

This unique industry event allows you to get questions answered, learn about new technologies and network with others in the industry in just two and a half days.

With this winning combination, we hope to see you in Sarasota in April.