For those of you who believe the food and beverage manufacturing industry is recession-proof, it’s time to think again. Although the industry wasn’t hurt nearly as much during the great recession as the automotive and housing/construction industries, for example, it did have some dark days. For instance, plant construction projects went from a high in 2007, with a total of 253 greenfield plants built, to a low of 145 new production facilities built in 2010.
But I’m happy to report the food and beverage industry is now thriving, according to Food Engineering’s 36th annual Plant Construction Survey. As the economy rebounds, so does food and beverage manufacturing.
While not quite as strong as the 2007 greenfield plant high mark, 2012 greenfield projects numbered 218, according to FE’s research. In today’s efficiency-focused environment, plant renovation and expansion projects now outpace new construction by more than three to two. The good news is total plant projects (greenfield plus renovation and expansion projects) for 2012 numbered 600, coming very close to the 2007 banner year number of 613 total plant projects. (See pages 50 - 82 in this issue for the full Plant Construction Survey report.)
It’s interesting to note that many of the issues facing food manufacturers remain the same or have shifted slightly in nomenclature. A decade ago, plant executives focused on lean manufacturing. Today, manufacturers focus on efficiency and return on investment. In 2003, food safety issues centered on track and trace measures and adhering to the Bioterrorism Act. Today, processors prepare for the Food Safety Modernization Act and are concerned with food safety issues related to cybersecurity, sanitary plant design and ensuring their supply chains are intact with the receipt of high-quality raw materials.
However, the overall focus of the food industry has remained unchanged over the past decade. I salute the readers of Food Engineering for their commitment to excellence, quality and safety regardless of the economic forces.