At last month’s Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference (FA&M), the theme was clear: No man or woman, and no department or job title, can function as an island in today’s competitive food and beverage manufacturing environment.
FA&M’s opening day speakers agreed that for a manufacturer to succeed, all levels of management, engineering and operations must function in harmony. According to FA&M Keynote Speaker Rob Miller, vice president of engineering at ConAgra Foods, manufacturing excellence can only be achieved by a seamless technical community of engineering, operations, maintenance, R&D and suppliers. This requires open communication and staff knowledge at all levels of a manufacturing organization, from the executive suite to the plant floor. 
One of the biggest threats to food and beverage company profitability and public health is a food safety problem. According to FA&M opening day speaker Greg Flickinger, vice president, manufacturing and corporate engineering at Snyder’s-Lance, staff engagement is crucial to a safe food supply. Often a people problem, food safety issues can frequently be fixed by proper staff training. 
Food safety should not be viewed as a function under a single department. It must be addressed by all members of the operations and quality teams, as well as plant floor workers, in a collaborative environment of open communication.
A group presentation on OEE from processor members of the Alliance for Innovation and Operational Excellence (AIOE) closed the first day of FA&M sessions and continued the collaboration theme. AIOE works with multiple processor and supplier groups to address key issues and solve critical problems within and across vertical markets. This presentation showed how a global food and beverage village can work together to achieve success. 
OEE, like food safety, is a non-proprietary and non-competitive issue among processors. AIOE working groups create standards and guidelines that are the one shared voice of the industry on issues such as OEE, food safety, sustainability, packaging management, OEE, engineering and more. More information is available at
Working in close collaboration with your staff and colleagues in the global food and beverage community can help you address key challenges. I invite you to consider participating in one unique event providing synergistic food and beverage processing themes. Save the date for the next edition of FA&M: April 6-9, 2014 at the Westin Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale.