New Year, New Tech: Food Industry Trends to Watch in 2018

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Believe it or not, 2018 is just around the corner. A lot happened in the food industry in 2017, including groundbreaking mergers like the Amazon-Whole Foods deal, the first major compliance deadlines for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules and the dawn of a new presidential administration.

We know the food industry doesn’t slow down, so what should you keep an eye on as we venture into the new year? Here are some of my top trends to watch in 2018.

Harnessing data to improve bottom lines

Our technology has gotten smarter, an increasing number of our machines have internet connectivity and our food plants are producing more data than ever — but what do we do with it all? There is an increasing focus on identifying which data is important and utilizing it to anticipate the operating costs of a facility.

Clients always ask us “How much will it cost to build this facility?” but today more of them are asking “How much will it cost to operate this facility once it is built?” Even in the design process, data can be used to predict costs and make strategic decision before a plant is ever operational.

Many plant managers have used a wall of video monitors to track plant performance, but today much of that metering takes place online with real-time feedback on throughput and downtime. We definitely have the technology to collect a lot of data today, but the focus now is determining which data is useful and how to leverage it, not drown in it.

The development of design technology tools

Technological advancements continue to march ahead at a brisk pace, especially when it comes to designing food and beverage facilities. Thanks to new design technology tools, the industry is shifting to a design-led approach to building facilities. The industry is shifting to a design-led approach to building facilities thanks to new design technology tools such as:

  • Structured data
  • Intelligent clash detection
  • Virtual reality
  • Laser scanning

Unforeseen changes on the job site are one of the biggest threats to a budget or schedule, but these smarter design tools can reduce the probability of surprise roadblocks before a shovel ever breaks ground. We now have better visibility to navigate the construction process with an assurance that didn’t exist in the past.

Plus, companies may not have accurate drawings of their plants when it comes time for a renovation, but now lasers and digital scanners can confidently map out facilities within millimeters of accuracy in a cost-effective way.

The design-decide model for food plant construction

A novel approach to designing and constructing food and beverage facilities is shaking up traditional methods for project delivery.

For owners undecided on what project delivery method is right for their project, the design-decide option allows owners both high-quality design and the added flexibility to decide on their delivery method after the design process has begun.

As opposed to choosing design-build or design-bid-build at the onset, the design-decide route buys the owner more time while the design process gets underway. Typically, owners must decide on a delivery method by the 60% design review.

Continued focus on food safety

Of course, food safety will remain a high priority going into 2018. We continue to see major recalls making headlines, and supply chain is under greater scrutiny. Consumers are increasingly concerned with where their food comes from and how it’s produced — and that outlook is influencing their purchasing decisions.

Plus, it will be interesting to see how food regulations will be influenced under a Trump presidency in 2018. The President’s pick for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, isn’t exactly known for supporting healthier diets or stricter food regulation. The food industry will certainly be watching for new legislation or the rollback of existing regulations in 2018.

Did I leave anything out? How are you preparing for 2018? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email at

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