What the USDA’s new Billion-Dollar Plan Means for Food Processors

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is renewing its commitment to strengthen critical supply chains and address long-standing challenges within the food production and processing industries. 

“As the pandemic has evolved and Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused supply chain disruptions, it has become clear we cannot go back to the food system we had before,” said the USDA in a press release. 

The USDA aims to make the industry more competitive, equitable and resilient by investing billions of dollars in the food system. These investments are designed to build on a framework of similar legislation introduced in 2021 and could make the industry even more competitive.

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Should You Automate Your Packaging Process to Meet Growing Demand?

Food and beverage companies have seen a major increase in demand for their products in the past few years. The COVID-19 shutdowns changed consumer habits: Instead of dining out or ordering takeout, consumers spent more money having their groceries delivered, making their own meals at home and discovering new food and beverage products. 

This increase in demand is driving many food manufacturers to consider automating their packaging processes to improve efficiency. However, choosing the right level of automation takes time and research. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, since the level of implementation will impact your initial costs as well as your return on investment. 

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Choosing the Best Flooring Material for Food & Beverage Processing Areas

The flooring systems in food and beverage processing areas are an essential component of the facility’s daily operation. Whether you’re evaluating flooring in a food production, storage or welfare space, the floor’s cleanability, resilience, durability and surface characteristics are integral to the space’s sanitation and safety. 

Selecting the appropriate flooring system for each area is an important and nuanced operational and budgetary decision, especially in a highly regulated industry like food processing. The decision requires careful consideration in the earliest stages of the design and construction process.

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How Ergonomics Affect Employee Wellness (and What Manufacturers Can Do to Improve it)

Americans have been quitting their jobs in record numbers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called Great Resignation is significantly impacting the food and beverage industry. In response, many industry leaders are focusing on ergonomics strategies to improve employee comfort and safety, and in turn, retention. 

“If the workplace is designed to meet peoples’ needs, it demonstrates the employer’s commitment and enables employees to be fully engaged in the workplace,” says Jeff Sanford, an ergonomics expert at VelocityEHS, a provider of environmental health and safety (EHS) solutions.

Sanford recently spoke at a webinar hosted by Food Processing magazine, in which he shared best practices for improving ergonomics and employee safety within the food and beverage industry.

The goal of ergonomics is to prevent soft-tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion and bad posture. This is especially important in the U.S. food and beverage industry, which has the highest lost-workday incidence (LWDI) across all industries with a rate of 6.5 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers, compared to the standard of 3.3.

These numbers especially matter in today’s competitive labor market. A recent study on ergonomics cited in the webinar found employee turnover dropped anywhere from 23% to 49% within companies that employed an ergonomics strategy. Meanwhile, the same study found absenteeism dropped between 42% and 116%. These statistics could help some processing facilities justify the cost of implementing ergonomic changes. 

What can facility owners and plant managers do to improve employee ergonomics? Below are some common issues and solutions shared during the webinar.

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Cyberattacks, Hacking and Phishing Scams: the Food Processing Industry’s Multimillion-Dollar Problem

Food processing facilities have come a long way since pre-industrial days. Each year, food and beverage companies rely more heavily on automation, high-tech building management systems, remotely accessible machine sensors, modern data collection and the latest technology. While these innovations can help facilities run more smoothly, they can also leave them vulnerable to data breaches and cyberattacks. 

In 2020, the average cost of a cyberattack was approximately $3.86 million, according to the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI). When computer intrusions happen, cybercriminals are typically seeking out a company’s intellectual property or customer and client data that can be exchanged for digital currencies, like passwords, protected health information, personal identity information and credit card information. 

Every company will be targeted by a malware or ransomware attack at some point. It’s just a matter of when, so it’s vital to have a robust cybersecurity plan that protects your assets and information.

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6 Ways Vertical Commissioning Can Benefit Your Next Food Facility Project

Signing on a new construction or renovation project presents an exciting time for food manufacturing owners ready to embark on the next stage of their business plan. A commissioning partner who uses a vertical start-up model can help ensure a smooth project handover.

Traditionally, commissioning occurs as construction nears completion when engineers begin installing and testing equipment to guarantee production lines will run properly. However, my experience is that waiting until the end to conduct system integration, simulations and automation can prolong start-up and cost owners valuable time, money and resources.

Applying best practices for commissioning and coordinating with owner equipment manufacturers (OEMs) early on can ensure facilities achieve full performance much faster and at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional methodologies. 

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Best Practices for Building an Enterprise Data Warehouse from Scratch

Business intelligence (BI) and data analytics empower and enable organizations to quickly make fact-based decisions that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. 

Building an enterprise data warehouse can offer many benefits for food and beverage manufacturers and their construction partners, including improved safety, budget certainty, warranty tracking and knowledge management. 

Successful BI and analytics strategies are only possible when the database where information is stored is properly maintained. If any member of your team inputs incorrect or incomplete data, you’ll ultimately get inaccurate results, which could end up costing your facility money and time.

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How to Leverage Construction Data to Level Up Your Next Food Plant Project

Modern data collection and analytics have created infinite opportunities for businesses to leverage information to their advantage. Even the simplest piece of information can prove incredibly valuable to an operation when organized and used correctly.

However, storing data to let it sit collecting dust is a waste of time and resources. This is especially apparent in the food processing and construction industries because every moving piece can be cataloged and therefore analyzed to the user’s benefit. 

When used strategically, streamlined and actionable data integration can fuel effective and efficient decision-making at every stage of the design, construction and business management processes.

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Industrial Refrigeration Basics: Synthetic vs. Natural Refrigerants

Operable refrigerant systems have been in use since the 1830s, with ether as the original refrigerant. Over the years, the use of refrigerants has evolved as technology has advanced and research has revealed more about the impacts these substances have on the environment. 

New restrictions continue to be placed on the use of refrigerants, making it more important than ever for manufacturers, as well as commercial and industrial owners, to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and changes.

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Think You Know BIM? Think Again: How Building Information Modeling Boosts Sustainability

A sustainable revolution is underway and industrial/commercial buildings in the U.S. are lagging behind. Almost a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come directly from industrial sources, such as manufacturing, food processing, mining and construction, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).

“If direct and indirect emissions are combined, the industrial sector is the largest emitting sector in the U.S. economy, responsible for 29.6% of total emissions,” according to data provided by C2ES.

While you may be familiar with Building Information Modeling (BIM), it’s often underestimated and pigeonholed as merely a design and construction tool. However, when implemented strategically, BIM is the key to turning industrial facilities into long-term sustainability powerhouses and providing transparency and a sense of order to what has historically been a nebulous process.

A building’s design, construction and operation produce data that comprise a complex puzzle — BIM helps solve it.

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