Automation tops the list of food industry trends, and most processors expect their throughput to go up this year, according to The 2016 State of Food Manufacturing survey from Food Engineering magazine.

Here are a few more highlights from the survey, which covers everything from output and equipment, to food safety and social responsibility. Responses were collected from professionals throughout the food processing industry.

Automation is the top trend in food processing today.

According to survey participants, the top 10 trends that will change manufacturing operations for food processors this year are:

  • Automation
  • Employee-related trends (e.g., training, lack of skilled workforce, etc.)
  • Food safety and related regulations (e.g., FSMA, HARPC)
  • Packaging concerns
  • Consumer demands and trends
  • New products and markets
  • GMOs
  • Improving efficiency and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)
  • Quality control
  • Updates in equipment and software

More sales and new products are driving increased throughput.

  • 60% of survey respondents expect their company’s gross throughput to increase over last year, by an average of 13%.
  • Key drivers of the increase include:
    • Rising sales
    • New products
    • Increased consumer demand
    • New customers
    • Market growth
  • Processors are meeting increased demands by:
    • Adding manufacturing staff (38%)
    • Expanding, renovating, or adding capacity to existing facilities (37%)
    • Adding new lines (36%)
    • Changing a process (30%)
    • Adding production shifts (24%)
    • Installing advanced automation systems (20%)

To facilitate automation, processors are investing in process-control hardware and software.

In 2016, the top planned purchases for process control equipment include:

  • Programmable logic controllers (38%)
  • Digital sensors and transmitters (36%)

More than a quarter of respondents plan to buy:

  • Wireless plant networking equipment
  • Human machine interfaces (HMIs)
  • Motion/motor controllers
  • Lab analysis equipment/software
  • Control systems/upgrades

Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) numbers are down this year.

  • Processors report an average target OEE score of 74%. However, current OEE scores average 68%.
  • Both of these numbers are down compared to the last four years.

Food safety continues to be a priority.

  • 72% of survey respondents say their company uses a food safety management system.
  • 69% have a recall plan in place.
  • More than 60% report comprehensive staff training, food allergen controls, and lot-level traceability.
  • More than half test raw ingredients and audit suppliers and/or co-packers.

Processors are investing in social responsibility and sustainability.

67% of survey participants say they have a social responsibility or sustainability program in place, including:

  • Workplace programs
  • Social responsibility / community outreach
  • Monitoring water and electricity use
  • Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions and/or carbon footprint

Additional survey details and discussion are available on Food Engineering’s website.