Welcome to the new year. January is always a good time for reflection, with the holidays over and the hustle and bustle just ramping back up; plus, it seems especially appropriate this year, with a whole new administration taking the helm for the next four years. So, I’d like to take a moment to consider what’s ahead for food manufacturing.

Right now is a tremendously exciting time for the industry. You have more than likely heard the most popular industry buzz phrase being uttered in the last few years: Internet of Things. I know, it’s been overused, and for many of you, the idea of connecting the whole factory is not a new one. But what marks the difference now is the technology that has finally caught up to the vision of manufacturers and its capabilities of drilling down into all areas of operations.

I think the more appropriate name, but less used in the US, is Industry 4.0. This is the fourth wave of manufacturing where we are now moving operations into the digital space. It truly is a revolution, and we are at the horizon of new production methods using better and more efficient procedures to meet the demands of our times, such as feeding the growing global population, satisfying rapidly changing consumer tastes and adhering to more stringent food safety regulations.

But just like in any revolution, there will be winners, and some left behind. As we saw in the burst of the housing bubble about 10 years ago and all the newspapers that folded in the 2000s, it is possible for companies with decades of history to fall overnight. What might separate the two? Preparation for the future.

Realizing there is a monumental change happening is the first step. The second is to stay informed: Listen to experts who are on the forefront, learn how they are managing data and obtaining insights into operations and discover the tools that they are using to embrace the future of food manufacturing.

It’s no coincidence that this is our tagline for our upcoming Food Automation and Manufacturing Conference this April. When planning the agenda, we took a long, hard look at this current moment in time, and it was, quite honestly, a no-brainer to make this the theme of our conference. We have an amazing lineup of speakers, addressing everything from the ideal location for a future food plant to incorporating collaborative robots in your factories. We really hope you’ll join us in Florida for the event.