Food and beverage companies are facing an increasingly competitive environment that demands familiarity with leading-edge automation and processing and packaging solutions. However, truly successful manufacturing operations stand out due to their integration of these solutions with a holistic program that includes continuous improvement, food safety and operational excellence.

At the 2014 Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo, industry experts offered more than 200 manufacturing professionals the opportunity to learn how to adapt to changing business and regulatory climates. Produced by Food Engineering, the annual event was held at the Westin Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, FL and included nine featured speakers, two expert panels, 12 solutions theater presentations and 56 exhibitors. Select presentations from this year’s conference were also webcast to a virtual audience.

Speakers touched on many of the top 10 trends impacting food manufacturing, as reported in Food Engineering’s 2013 State of Food Manufacturing Survey. They included automation and robotics; food safety; consumer trends; equipment modernization and expansion; regulatory issues; sustainability; and more.


Manufacturing excellence

Engineering Keynote Speaker Jim Prunesti, vice president of global engineering at Campbell Soup, kicked off the conference by sharing his company’s strategy for driving manufacturing excellence through supply chain innovation and management.

First, Campbell’s seeks to excel competitively by attaining flat to declining total delivered costs. Next, the company seeks to win with consumers through wellness, quality and value and with customers, by improving customer service and agility. Finally, the company seeks to win with people by building the world’s most extraordinary supply chain organization, and with communities, by advancing sustainability and CSR programs.

According to Prunesti, these efforts help the supply chain deliver business results in the face of a difficult economic environment, changing consumer demands and purchasing patterns, inflationary pressures and the demand for more innovative products. These supply chain-focused efforts have resulted in the ability to deliver consistent year-over-year savings.

“If you want to sustain a cost-savings initiative, and you’re able to do that at 3 to 4 percent year over year, that’s a world-class number,” says Prunesti. “That’s something we strive for.”

To reach that goal, Campbell’s considers the cost of products made and total cost management. For manufacturing and logistics/transportation, which represent 30 to 40 percent of the cost of made products, Campbell’s has set a 5 to 6 percent productivity savings goal. Packaging and ingredients costs, which represent about 60 to 70 percent of total cost, are targeted for a 2 percent productivity savings.

Prunesti says it’s important to have a clear picture of who owns the delivery of those savings. For instance, manufacturing productivity savings are owned by the plant, while logistics savings are owned by customer service and packaging, and ingredients savings are owned by business teams, R&D and procurement.

Of course, cost savings are an important part of a successful manufacturing equation, but equally important is a commitment to an effective and robust continuous improvement program. Prunesti’s presentation was immediately followed by Diageo Operations Director for Leven Manufacturing David Light’s presentation, “Continuous Improvement: Turning Data into Action.” The presentation described Diageo’s success in leveraging manufacturing data systems to improve information and empower operators, supervisors and managers to take action and implement change.

Light stressed the importance of consistency in choosing the definition of OEE and then applying it consistently. He broke down overall equipment effectiveness into four quartiles: best of the best at 92.6 percent; top quartile at 77.4 percent; an industry average at 59.4 percent; and bottom performers at 41.8 percent.

Therefore, according to Light, if 75 percent overall equipment effectiveness is world-class performance, an operation can afford to lose only approximately 25 percent. A top-quartile organization can expect to see 12.8 percent operational losses, 4.2 percent for changeover and changeover excess, and 6 percent for long stops and maintenance. However, the industry average is 21.8 percent for operational losses, 4.5 percent for changeover and changeover excess and 12.9 percent long stops and maintenance.

It’s important to remember that OEE is a reference point, rather than a goal. “Data doesn’t solve problems, people do,” says Light. “Benchmarking is really just breaking down silos to win bigger, and win together.”


Safety first

FA&M 2014 speaker David Acheson presented a comprehensive breakdown of the Food Safety and Modernization Act. The former FDA and FSIS chief medical officer and current president and CEO of the Acheson Group shared his perspective on FSMA through the lens of today’s challenges including complex supply chains; changing consumer demands; emerging threats; improving epidemiology; growing media influence; litigation; new standards; and inconsistent standards.

Acheson says these challenges exist due to narrow margins and the drive to minimize procurement costs combined with the risk of going out of business because of a food safety problem and the difficulty of meeting consumer demand for high-quality, low-cost, zero-risk products. The result is the need for legislation like FSMA that emphasizes prevention-based approaches to food safety incorporating written hazard analysis and a risk-based controls plan.

FDA implementation activities for FSMA will include inspection of records, mandatory recalls and requiring import certificates. Records relating to manufacturing, processing, packing, receipt, holding and importation are subject to FDA inspection under FSMA. Customer complaint and testing records must be retained as well.

Penalties for manufacturers found to be in violation of FSMA may include mandatory recalls, the suspension of a plant’s registration as a food production facility and expanded administrative detention.

According to Acheson, a successful food safety plan follows a cycle from hazard analysis to preventive controls and then monitoring. Following monitoring, corrective actions must be taken before the verification and reanalysis of hazards. Every component in this cycle must be included in the written documentation of the plan.

Acheson recommends forming a team to help understand FSMA’s potential impacts on an operation, focusing on aspects that are unlikely to change and keeping an eye on rules as they evolve and become final. Final rules are expected between August 2015 and March 2016, while full implementation is expected to come between August 2016 and March 2017.


Build your team

Gardner Carrick, vice president, strategic initiatives, The Manufacturing Institute, continued FA&M opening day’s presentations with a look at how the adoption of lean principles, looming retirement by baby boomers and the increasing need for technological knowledge have placed a premium on finding talent.

According to Carrick, 82 percent of manufacturers can’t find skilled workers, which has created significant costs. Fifty-five percent of companies report a 5 percent or more increase in production downtime associated with a lack of skilled workers. Sixty percent of companies report an increase of at least 5 percent in their production cycle time, while 70 percent report an increase of at least 5 percent in overtime.

Goal number one, he says, is reestablishing the US as the global leader in manufacturing education through skills certification systems offered by manufacturing industry associations. The second goal is changing the perception of manufacturing careers. Third, the industry must advocate for better education and job training policies.


Making the case for automation

Hugh Roddy, senior director of global automation/controls & energy management at Chobani, kicked off  day two of FA&M with a presentation on “The Business Value of Automation.” Roddy described how Chobani is able to optimize uptime, changeovers, maintenance, asset utilization and production schedules with automation software and controls.

Roddy described the main goals of plant automation as increasing productivity, reducing downtime, speeding up changeovers and meeting and exceeding regulatory demands, while retaining a dynamic, flexible structure to support growth and maintain product diversity. He stressed the importance of a process data historian to collect packaging line or process floor data and allow it to be viewed and interpreted throughout the company in the form of published reports.

Standardization of automation systems across Chobani’s facilities is another cornerstone of Roddy’s case for the business value of automation. The company’s fundamental strategy across its controls infrastructure at its three plant locations is that the systems look the same, act the same and feel the same. Consequently, Roddy can keep track of real-time data and eliminate HMI lockups and delays in expansion processes.

The result is a fully redundant, reliable and expandable network, leaving staff more time and energy to focus on process-oriented and maintenance tasks while reducing downtime.


From sanitary design to Plant of the Year

Next on the agenda was a presentation on a new industry initiative, the One Voice Vision. The initiative was conceived and organized by PMMI’s Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence (AIOE).  Made up of more than 90 consumer product manufacturers and over 25 suppliers, the alliance aims to help OEMs and CPGs identify and agree on minimum requirements for the food-safe design of non-propriety sanitary equipment used in manufacturing low-moisture foods

A panel featuring Madinah Allen, Snyder-Lance senior director of corporate engineering/technology, and David Drum, senior food safety officer of the Kellogg Company, shared their perspectives on common challenges in sanitary design in a presentation entitled “Sanitary Equipment Design: User Requirements in Low Moisture Food Manufacturing.”

AIOE’s framework is based on four steps: risk assessment, zones, tools and discussion. The presentation covered HACCP risk assessment and corrective action, as well as hygienic zoning. Hygienic zoning separates a plant into basic-, medium- and high-hygiene zones throughout the product flow, enabling more effective sanitation and risk minimization. In the tool selection, the panel stressed the importance of using a decision tree that includes accounting for hygiene zone and surface material.

Day two of the conference concluded with the presentation of Food Engineering’s 2014 Plant of the Year Award to Blue Diamond Growers’ Bruce Lish, general manager of operations, and Ulli Thiersch, director, Turlock operations.

Blue Diamond’s new 175,000-sq.-ft., high-volume, high-efficiency, expandable facility began production last year to serve the company’s global ingredients manufacturing business.  Phase two of Blue Diamond’s expansion plan will focus on new packaging forms such as cans, flexible pouches and standup pouches, as well as additional processing technologies including oil and dry roasting, coating and milling for almond milk for the North American market.


Operational efficiency

FA&M 2014’s final day kicked off with a presentation from Snyder’s-Lance’s Director of Operations Jeremy Bowen and Operations Manager of the Snyder’s-Lance Charlotte, NC plant Andy Blackburn. Bowen and Blackburn shared the story of a remarkable culture shift at the operator level at Snyder’s-Lance that has seen the Charlotte facility go from missing its cost goal by $1,664,000 in 2012 to a $1,800,000 year-over-year improvement in cost.

The improvement involved a $15.5 million investment into a new Kettle chips line, but Bowen and Blackburn say the real change was driven at the operator level. The facility instituted a Top Shift Award, encouraged employees to adopt an “Our House, Our Future” mentality and challenged its workers to be the best of the best in snack manufacturing. As a result, the culture change translated to impressive bottom-line results.

Next, Paul Rutledge, environmental health and safety director for Johnsonville Sausage, shared his view of what he called the “machine safety guarding paradox,” where safety professionals, sanitarians and engineers all have different views of proper machine safety guarding. Rutledge says new safety standards and safety automation technology can bridge the gap between safety professionals who want fixed, hard guarding to maintain OSHA compliance, sanitarians whose priority is easy cleaning and removal, and manufacturing engineers who look to increase productivity through new technology.

Bill DiMento, corporate director of sustainability for High Liner Foods, shared his perspective on the return on investment of sustainability projects. He says qualitative ROI—or a lack thereof—is easily understood at the macro fishery level, where fisheries can be depleted or preserved with obvious impacts on the business.

DiMento believes sustainability inside a plant can also yield qualitative ROI. For instance, High Liner Foods’ Lunenberg, Nova Scotia plant has reduced its energy consumption by 790,000kWh annually through lighting and compressed air system improvements. In addition, 90 percent of cardboard material that used to enter landfills is now recycled and a part of the revenue stream, while at some facilities, cooking oil has been used to generate electricity through a partnership with a biodiesel energy provider. According to DiMento, High Liner Foods has also managed to bring food waste to a nearly cost-neutral position through composting and biogas generation.

The last presentation at FA&M 2014 was delivered by Steve Goodger, CFO of Green Flash Brewing, who discussed how to drive growth with real-time data. Goodger described the craft brewer’s Cloud ERP system, which allows members of the brewing team and him to monitor the operation in real-time and make adjustments as needed. The ERP system is partitioned from Green Flash’s business cloud system, meaning even when there’s an issue with one side of the operation, the other side can continue running.

FA&M 2014 provided leading equipment manufacturers and food and beverage companies the chance to learn from one another about critical issues on the continued path to efficient, sustainable and automated production. Attendees were also able to network at meals, cocktail receptions, in the exhibition hall and at a golf tournament, providing the type of informal, face-to-face interaction that can spur new partnerships, innovations and ideas.

In 2015, FA&M will be held April 12-15 at the Sheraton Sand Key resort in Clearwater Beach, FL. For more information, visit