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I just finished reading the highlights from Food Engineering’s State of Food Manufacturing Report in 2023. It’s good some great insights and I highly recommend it. Based on results from a Clear Seas Research survey earlier this year, the study captures what food manufacturers are seeing in the marketplace, with 56% of respondents reporting an increase in throughput, 36% reporting about the same as the previous year, and 8% reporting a decline. Those that reported an increase felt that this was based primarily (60%) on increased sales, business, and new customers. This was followed by new products (12%), updated equipment (7%), expanded locations (6%), and efficiency (6%).

Other highlights of this study included the fact that while throughput increased for many, that didn’t exactly translate into increases in profit as 80% of respondents said their material cost per product had increased. In fact, according to survey respondents, the cost increase per product rose on average by 12%.

As the study dug deeper into why this is, it reminded me of many of the things I’ve been hearing from FPSA member companies. Much of this has to do with labor. Nearly half of the respondents (48%) report being understaffed and 19% even reported a decrease in their workforce, thanks to the challenge of replacing people who have left or retired. When you consider the increased sales that many of these respondents are reporting, you can understand why costs are going up, as employers strive to keep good workers, provide additional training for expanded responsibilities, and even commission new equipment and systems to satisfy this increased demand.

I’ve written about this many times since the start of the pandemic. The demographic shift that we knew was coming for years packed quite a punch in 2020, and we’re all still dealing with that, and I expect we will for many years to come. As I recently told a member, we’re no longer competing with other companies in the industry for good talent, we’re now competing with other industries for that same talent. That means higher pay, more benefits and opportunities, better training, and myriad other “perks” to secure and keep good employees.

But first you need to find them.

In recent years, FPSA has worked hard to connect member companies with good talent. Whether it be training the next generation of service and maintenance technicians, encouraging promising undergrads to pursue a career in the food industry, or hosting a food industry focused job board to identify new opportunities for professionals, we continue to address this issue on behalf of our members with no plans to stop in the near future. In fact, this October we’ll be putting on a Career Fair during PROCESS EXPO to help link the many Chicagoland students to the food processors and equipment manufacturers who will be participating in the show. If you’re interested in getting information on that, please let me know.

Of course, that’s not the only reason to attend PROCESS EXPO. After all, with increased throughput, new equipment and automation is one way to meet this demand, and with suppliers for all links in the supply chain exhibiting at the show, you won’t have to go far to find manufacturing solutions that address your needs and experts you can sit down with to see how this technology fits into your plans. Join us in Chicago to see what else FPSA has to offer, and the resources we can provide to help you take advantage of this growing industry!

Andy Drennan, FPSA SVP