Simulation of conveyor layouts and safe and hygienic production equipment that can be delivered in a short timeframe are among the trends that were discussed at ProFood Tech 2019 in Chicago in March. After taking part in the event, FlexLink concluded that the industry is determined to make food production safer for both operators and consumers. Following are seven trends the company noted:
- Strong development among food companies in the U.S. These are exciting times in the American food production industry. There is an enormous amount of food production facilities where both new and old food companies develop new startups, foods, and brands.
- Hygiene, operator safety, and simulation. The most evident trends in the American food production industry were related to hygiene, operator safety, and simulation.
- Recalls and contaminated food can be avoided with the right production equipment. Hygiene, sanitation, and cleaning of conveyors are constant challenges for food companies. In the U.S. alone, about 48 million people (1 in 6) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, according to recent CDC data. Almost daily, food companies need to recall product due to, for example, plastic parts in the food or risk of contaminated food as a result of bacterial growth in production. This is a huge problem in the industry and a significant public health burden that can be largely preventable with, for example, hygienic production equipment. In addition to the serious health issue, food companies cannot afford to have their brands jeopardized by producing unsafe food. Therefore, the demands of safe food production have never been bigger than they are today. Additionally, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is transforming the nation’s food safety system by shifting the focus from responding to foodborne illness to preventing it, and the digital landscape puts even higher demands on food companies today as events in production can become public in seconds through social media. This leads to a more transparent food production where there is no room for negligence or poor production quality.
- A safe conveyor design protects operators during production and cleaning. Another topic that is high on the agenda in the food production industry is the safety of the hygienically designed conveyors. Thus, it is not enough to have production equipment with a hygienic design that is easy to clean and safe for food production. The production equipment must also be safe for the operators, both in the production process and cleaning process. Safe design prevents operators from getting their fingers caught somewhere, as well as avoids pinch points and other unsafe places in and around the equipment. It is highly important that food producers don’t have to sacrifice safety for the hygienic benefits.
- Simulation – for food companies that have a large need for data. A trend that is big in the food production industry in the US, and other countries as well, is to conduct a simulation of a conveyor layout. Simulation is a way to understand the impact of changes before they are implemented in real life. That means, it is possible to get feedback on how a system behaves without having the real system in place. This is popular among larger food companies that require data and want to visualize the complete layout of the line including how it works, and the ability to test the line with what-if scenarios to measure impact.
- Finding the balance between production and regulatory compliance. The future for American food production looks very bright with strong growth and development on the market. There is a great deal of diversification in the big food companies where they continue to expand product offerings and develop portfolios. Gluten-free food, low-calorie food, vegan food – the list of new products is endless. The challenge in the business is finding the balance between production and regulatory compliance. The production equipment must be clean, but at the same time, the production has to operate in a fast way. It is an unforgivable business in the sense that it takes a long time for a food company to recover from a recall, both from a financial and branding point of view.
- Increasing interest in turnkey deliveries from one company. Food production companies need safe and hygienic production equipment that is easy to clean, and they often need it fast. FlexLink provides layout design, control systems, production equipment, and installation as well as service and spare parts. It delivers designs that are both safe and hygienic, the company said, noting, as an example, its WLX conveyor platform has a hygienic design and provides easy and fast cleaning possibilities which allow the food production companies to spend more time on production and less time on sanitation. For more information, visit FlexLink at https://www.flexlink.com.