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In straightening up my office on Friday, I came across a photo album from our trade show. I’m not referring to last October’s Process Expo. No, this album is from our trade show in 1939 in San Francisco. Yes, 1939.

It’s not that I’m a pack rate, although some of my colleagues and my wife might make that claim. I happen to have been raised by two history majors with a steady diet of documentaries and history movies, especially those that are about World War II. So, when I see an album with that year on it, I can’t help but thumb through those pictures and think about the world that those exhibitors were living in at the time. Obviously, I could take this in the direction of FDR, Hitler, etc., (and believe me, I could after a weekend of binging Masters of the Air!), but that’s not where I’m going.

Looking at the exhibits of shiny stainless steel reminds me of one half of FPSA’s past with its roots in the dairy industry when we were known as the Dairy and Ice Cream Machinery and Suppliers Association (DICMSA maybe?).

Back then, Cherry Burrell, De Laval, Barry-Wehmiller, and other titans of the dairy industry not only exhibited but were active members in the Association. Obviously, it was a different time, back when most families typically consumed milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and exhibitors such as these focused on hygienic design and 3-A Standards long before anyone thought about that.

As I thumb through the pages of this album, I come across a photo from the Toledo Scales Company. Toledo and scales? That must be one of the originators of Mettler-Toledo. A quick look on Wikipedia confirms that. Over the years it has been my pleasure to work with FPSA member Mettler-Toledo, on our Production Lines at the show and in our educational programs for the same. In fact, one of the first leaders of the merged FPSA in 2006 was Chairman Viggo Nielsen of Mettler. But this is not meant to be an advertorial for Mettler-Toledo. As impressed as I am with their technology and role in our industry, I could name dozens of other companies that represent this industry equally well.

My point is that, looking at Toledo Scales’ equipment in these 1939 photos, makes you realize that Darwin’s theory of evolution doesn’t just apply to living beings. Companies need to continue adapting to the changing climate in business if they are to survive, let alone thrive. I would argue that given the fast pace of change in 2024, that’s even more true today than in 1939.

While some might classify FPSA’s membership as a collection of stainless-steel equipment manufacturers, that is far less true today than 85 years ago. As we prepare for our Executive Exchange & Conference taking place in two weeks in Indian Wells, I’m looking forward to our sessions on Sustainability, AI and Workforce Development. I’m excited about the session on New Plant Construction and meeting with members of our new Design-Build Network with whom who I expect to be working closely when we build our Production Lines for the 2025 EATS show. Do we have a lot of stainless? Absolutely, but this organization continues to evolve year after year right alongside its members, and I look forward to where we’re going.

Who knows? Maybe Association staff in 2109 will be looking at photos of this year’s events and think to themselves how quaint business was back then. We’ll see!

Andy Drennan