PROCESS EXPO will once again elevate the trade show experience to a whole new level. Following on the success of the 2017 event, this year’s show floor will feature demonstrations of five working production lines. Here, FPSA Senior Vice President Andy Drennan talks about the lines and how they add value for both processors and their suppliers.

PROCESS EXPO 2017 was the first (and only) trade show to have working production lines during its event. What was the response to this industry-first initiative?

AD: The response was even better than we expected. At PROCESS EXPO 2017, more than half of all attendees, 52%, went to at least one production line demonstration. The exhibitors were blown away by the participation of the attendees — there were no slow demonstrations in 2017. This time around, we had exhibitors clamoring to get into the lines because they had witnessed the crowds.

This year we decided to expand the production lines. In 2017, there were three and this year there will be five. Based on feedback from both exhibitors and processors, we’re also running demos on every day of the show, including Day 4. Each line will run three times every day, so attendees will have 15 opportunities each day to see the equipment in action.

What lines will be featured at PROCESS EXPO 2019?

The production lines were chosen by the exhibitors based on what they thought would be popular with the attendees.

First is the sliced cheese production line, complete with a 22-foot block-forming tower. This will probably be the biggest structure on the show floor, so as soon as you walk into the show, you’ll be able to see it. The line will be producing a variety pack of sliced Swiss and cheddar, starting from the HTST section and going all the way through to the packaged product the customer sees. At that point we’ll even have post-packaging inspection of the finished product.  For the dairy audience, this is something they just won’t see at any other show.

The frozen pizza line will also be fascinating. It starts with flour being dumped into the mixer and ends with frozen pizzas coming out packaged. Having no experience with a frozen pizza line, I can’t wait to see how the process works — mixing ingredients in the mixer, creating the crust, freezing in a tunnel freezer, applying the toppings, passing through a check weigher and metal detector and then packaging each individual pizza.

On the pet food line, we’ll be producing and packaging kibble. Pet food is a growing market for PROCESS EXPO, and this one will be especially interesting because the other industry events don’t typically showcase equipment. We’re very excited about this line as we have witnessed tremendous growth in our pet food audience and are confident that they will love this line.

The ground beef patty line will be a good example of processing and packaging automation. It will show an automated process of taking raw meat, grinding it, putting it into patties, and placing it into the packages that you and I purchase in the supermarket. It’s a product that we see every day in the meat case but don’t think much about how it gets there. Well, we’ll show you how with this line!

Finally, the pepperoni line will once again start with raw ingredients and end with a packaged product. In this case, the raw meat will be processed, transferred to the smokehouse, sliced into shingles, and then packaged. This too is a very popular product that has attracted some bellwether equipment manufacturers to put on this display and has the potential to be one of the top destinations on the PROCESS EXPO show floor.

What are the biggest benefits of these production lines for PROCESS EXPO attendees?

Even if customers don’t produce these particular products, the production lines will give them a good idea of how different products can be made using this equipment. Normally at a trade show, you’d see some exhibitors do demonstrations in their booth, maybe running a few pieces of equipment.

What stands apart here is that in all of the lines, each component is produced by a different manufacturer. This isn’t just one supplier putting together an entire line, it’s different manufacturers showing how they can work with other suppliers.

As processors already know, building lines using equipment from different manufacturers presents its own set of challenges because they all have their own specifications and configurations. For these production lines, the suppliers have to work together to connect the different components. This is the same thing customers have to deal with when they’re using different vendors, so the lines provide a very realistic demonstration of what the process would look like in a customer’s facility, as opposed to just individual pieces of equipment working.

Another advantage is that potential customers have the chance to talk to the engineers right on site. They can find out not just how the equipment works, but how it works together and what the challenges were. This gives them an idea of what to expect if they were going to do the same thing in their plant.

We think that by having direct access to engineers and subject matter experts, attendees will be able to speed up the process of finding solutions. Coming to PROCESS EXPO could cut weeks or even months off of the time it typically takes to identify equipment, talk to suppliers, and so on. This will not only help them respond more quickly to changing consumer trends, but also help spur ideas they might not even be thinking about.

Also, I’d like to emphasize that the exhibitors are fully invested in this concept. It’s not cheap to bring more equipment to Chicago, but they see value and interest from their customers.

This sounds like the cross-pollination idea that’s at the core of PROCESS EXPO. Can you say a little more about how the production lines fit with that philosophy?

The equipment in the production lines — and across the whole show floor, can be used for a variety of different products. When you start talking to the subject matter experts, they can often suggest applications you haven’t even thought about. So, you come to a demonstration to learn about one thing, but you walk away with five other opportunities you hadn’t even considered. That’s the value of coming to PROCESS EXPO.

For more information about the production lines, and to see what else will be happening at the show, visit the PROCESS EXPO news section of the blog.