As many of you who read this column each month are well aware, Food Engineering’s Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo is held every year in Florida during April. Each year, we track our registration numbers compared to previous years, and when we did our first comparison for 2012 vs. 2011 last month, we were very pleasantly surprised. The number of early registrations had significantly increased compared to the same time last year. Is word of mouth is spreading the news? Are food and beverage travel budgets opening up? Could this be a small sign of a better economic environment?

The vast majority of comments I have heard from our industry is that our selection of topics and speakers is right on the money. At the 2012 event, we will be focusing on continuous improvement with speakers from Diageo, Boston Beer, Glanbia and Marzetti; food safety from the Heinz perspective; best practices in CIP from Coca-Cola; and plant security protocols from McCormick.

Speakers covering sustainability will be on stage from Frito-Lay, Del Monte and ConAgra to name a few. Other featured speakers will show you how to create a no-compromise operations and manufacturing culture; understand the business case for sustainability; improve efficiency via robotics; and overcome challenges with legacy systems, machine safety and wastewater treatment programs.

In addition to two days of speakers from your peer group—food and beverage processor company speakers exclusively—we offer an expo with more than 50 exhibitors and over a dozen technology briefings from industry suppliers in the Solutions Theater.

Our conference is known as truly one of the best in the food and beverage industry. For more information about the program or to register, please see pages 36-37 in this issue or

Don’t miss Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo 2012. I look forward to seeing you from April 22 to 25 at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott in Fort Myers, FL.