In last year’s February issue, I wrote about how I was trying to overcome the depressing sight of snow and ice on the ground by thinking ahead to April and our annual Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference in Miami.

The more things change …

I can still see plenty of snow and ice when I look out the window, and I’m still looking forward to this year’s conference. And hopefully we’ll avoid the scenario we had last year, when snow was starting to fall as I took off in Chicago and ended up delaying a number of later flights. (My wife and daughter were NOT happy to learn that it was 95 degrees and sunny when I called them after landing.)

But the scenario that we will repeat is offering a great lineup of speakers and exhibitors for attendees. I’m especially excited about our engineering and automation keynotes, which are the showcase sessions for Monday and Tuesday of the conference, held April 26-29 at the Doral Resort in Miami.

Our engineering keynote this year will be given by Joe Zembas, senior manager, reliability engineering, The J.M. Smucker Co. Joe will be speaking about “Managing the Managers,” and he’ll discuss how to make sure all the stakeholders are on board before a project begins and keeping everyone engaged and involved as the project continues.

This is a common challenge that we hear from a lot of people as we discuss how projects get started and get done. When you’re working on a major construction or renovation project, there are a lot of people involved and a lot of moving pieces, and those people and pieces don’t always have the same end goal in mind. Joe will share insights from his career about how to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction to not only get the project done on time and under budget, but to also deal with those unexpected challenges that always pop up.

When it comes to automation, our keynote speakers will be Dan Stauft and Craig Langhals of SugarCreek. They’ll be addressing how to create a sustainable performance system, including how to collect and manage data, make decisions based on reliable information, and meet production goals through improved operations.

While data is great, it can easily become overwhelming if you don’t have a way to make sense of it. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been talking to someone for an article or about a project and I’ve heard some variation of “and suddenly we were trying to drink from a firehose.” 

Dan and Craig have been there and done that, and they’ve had a lot of success with creating performance systems throughout SugarCreek that not only produce a lot of data, but make it manageable and usable. That’s a great combination that a lot of processors are struggling with, so I can tell you that you won’t want to miss what Dan and Craig have to say.

We have several other great sessions planned, as well as the award presentations for Plant of the Year and Sustainable Plant of the Year. And all of it with nary a snowflake in sight. What’s not to like?

See you in Miami.