2007 Annual Manufacturing Survey - Labor Pains

Food safety remains the top concern in our sixth annual Manufacturing Trends Survey, with labor issues and energy also topping the worry list.

By David Feder, Managing Editor

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So what are processors doing to go green? The standard "three Rs" of ecology - reduce, reuse, recycle - are on most manufacturers' playlists. We can add redesigning (packaging) and re-sourcing. Education campaigns figured big, as did cutting energy consumption.

For the last word on going green, it's worth sharing one gung-ho processor's list of steps toward making an ecologically sound plant: "1. Wastewater treatment in-house to lighten load at city facility; 2. Using heated water from processing (previously thrown away) for other purposes; 3. Installed tankless water heaters for hot-water processes, replacing conventional tanks; 4. Replaced all overhead HID lights with Flourescent-5 fixtures; 5. Installed large air-storage tank, put in small air compressor."

Is it secure?

Security has lessened somewhat as a major concern - 32.8 percent say they are "very" or "extremely" concerned about bioterrorism or other terrorism compared to last year's 38 percent. And while 50.3 percent are at least "somewhat" concerned, 14.6 percent are unconcerned, slightly up from 2005's 13 percent.

2007 Manufacturing Survey

This could be a result of another year's distance from the attacks of September 11, 2001, or it could be the fact that 53.3 percent of those responding increased their security measures in 2006 as another 41.2 percent kept existing measures in place. Moreover, 45.2 percent report they are planning to increase plant security in 2007. Three respondents reduced security measures.

The lock-and-key approach is still the preferred method of security at 67.5 percent for external access and 52.8 percent for restricting internal access too. Surveillance matched last year's numbers exactly at 54 percent. Look for more badges on and off the grounds as 58.4 percent of plants go to employee identification systems and 25.9 percent use outside security companies.

When we asked about automation, consolidation and expansion last year, only 6 percent reported their entire plants were automated. Not that many more folks spent 2006 plugging in - this year the number rose only slightly, to 6.7 percent (see graphic).

Other  numbers stayed about the same, too: 54.5 percent automated production sections (56 percent last year), 53.1 percent automated packaging sections (53 percent last year) and 12.9 percent did logistics/warehousing (16 percent last year).

Two subcategories in the automation area saw larger differences: Maintenance, repair & operations dropped almost in half, to 6.2 percent from 11, and automating the entire production line rose about 20 percent to 20.6 from 17. We added a subcategory this year, waste operations, and so discovered 6.7 percent of you have that section of your plants automated.

How are you automating? PLC integration was the big winner at 47.4 percent, with custom software close behind, 42.1 percent. Off-the-shelf software accounts for 20.1 percent of automation methods. Robotics make up almost a quarter of automating (23.4 percent). PC centralization and RFID are nearly tied this year, 12 and 11.5 percent, respectively.

Another new addition to this year's survey concerned the ANSI/ISA-88 batch processing standard. We asked how many processors knew of the standard: only 19.1 percent do, with less than half of them (7.7 percent) using it in any way. The standard is used as a way to define reference models and provide terminology for batch recipes and control in batch manufacturing plants.

For 2007, 9.7 percent of processors plan to consolidate production or the number of manufacturing plants. More than 27 percent hope to expand and just under half - 48.1 percent - will keep things status quo.

Roughly the same number of manufacturers report their capital spending budgets will stay the same (22.8 percent), go up 5-10 percent (20.4 percent) or increase by greater than 10 percent (22.3 percent). Just 7.3 percent believe capital expenditures will drop for the coming year. One company is going all-out, building "one new frozen-product manufacturing plant and expanding an existing frozen-product manufacturing plant to increase capacity 33-50 percent."

In addition to building new facilities and overhauling existing ones, a number of manufacturers are planning to spend on new packaging equipment and packaging lines.

Overall, this year's survey provided a valuable look at the issues moving the multibillion-dollar food industry forward. The editors of Food Processing thank all who took the time to complete the survey and who contributed comments. And don't forget, we're here for you - if you have any questions or feedback, write or call anytime.

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