Joyce Fassl In-BodyThis month marks Food Engineering’s 35th annual report on the State of Food Manufacturing.  As processors continue to strive for operational excellence, manufacturing challenges have not changed much in recent years, but priorities are shifting. While food safety and sustainability remain key focuses, food and beverage manufacturers are concentrating on productivity by increasing overall efficiency and flexibility.

Food safety and sustainability programs continue to be an integral part of successful operations, but the compass is pointing back to manufacturing basics: producing high quality foods while simultaneously achieving margin improvements.

Each year, Food Engineering editors search for one manufacturing plant in North America that embraces all of these concepts. Entries for the 2015 Plant of the Year Award are due December 3, 2014, so now is the time to begin thinking about entering the competition.

New food/beverage plants or major retrofits that became fully operational in calendar year 2014 are eligible. The plants must produce processed food/beverage products (not simply value-added commodities) designed for human consumption. All plants entered in the competition must be available by January 2015 for an editorial team visit to be part of Food Engineering’s April 2015 issue. Major renovations/expansions of existing facilities also are eligible. Renovations will be judged on an equal footing with greenfield plants. The projects must have been completed in calendar year 2014.

Entries will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • The plant’s contribution (actual/projected) to the company’s long-term business plans/strategies.
  • The level of innovation in processing and packaging line design (creative new technology or creatively used existing technology). This can include post-production materials handling.
  • Building and site innovations.

If there are additional relevant matters that go beyond the stated criteria, please be sure to call them to the judges’ attention. These might include: on-time/on-budget performance; environmental impact; worker safety innovations; food safety innovations; automation and software technologies; size; manufacturing teams; flexible manufacturing; supply chain management; and enterprise resource planning.

For further information about Food Engineering’s Plant of the Year competition, please contact me or visit to view past winners and a complete list of guidelines.

I look forward to learning about your journey to manufacturing excellence.