Food safety, sustainability, plant safety, outsourcing, trade secrets, lack of qualified workers. Sound familiar? If you work in the average North American food or beverage manufacturing plant, chances are you face these challenges each month and maybe even each day.

In order to remain competitive, today’s food engineers have to foster global partnerships, cut energy usage, conserve water and get products to market at lightning speed. And while you are at it, don’t forget to build some rainbow pallets and assemble a few meal kits.

It’s no surprise that recent studies say Americans are growing increasingly unhappy with their jobs. A Conference Board report published earlier this year says the decline in job satisfaction has occurred over a period of two decades, with no sign of a significant reversal in attitudes anytime soon.

The breadth of dissatisfaction is somewhat unsettling, says the report, since it carries over from what attracts employees to a job to what keeps them motivated and productive on the job. Although a certain amount of dissatisfaction with any job is normal, there are things employers can do to improve morale such as an increased focus on life-work balance.

I find it somewhat ironic that I am writing this column as the Labor Day holiday approaches. By the time you read this, the holiday weekend will be a distant memory, and you will be back in the office contending with piles of emails, phone calls and pressing projects.

Each week, Food Engineering receives calls from processors looking for help on purchasing everything from software to mixing equipment. While we might not always have the perfect answer to your unique challenge, we can certainly help steer you in the right direction. Sometimes it’s just nice to know someone is out there to relieve your stress in the quest for continuous improvement. Let us know if we can help.