The trade association for suppliers to the food processing and packaging industry‭.‬

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Last summer, we announced a major restructuring of our organization. In addition to the six Industry Councils — Bakery, Beverage, Dairy, Prepared Foods, Meat, and the newly formed Pet Food Council — we created three new Networks — Food Safety, Packaging, and Technology. These Networks join the FPSA Women’s Council and Young Professionals Group as opportunities to connect members across industry segments so that they can share knowledge, learn from one another, and work together to advance our industry.

In August, FPSA President and CEO David Seckman shared the reason for the Networks and how they will provide value for FPSA members. Here’s an update on progress so far.

How have the first three months of the Networks initiative gone? Are people getting involved?

DS: We developed the idea for the Networks after seeing the success of the Women’s Council and the Young Professionals Group. It was clear that there was a need in the industry for the type of cross-vertical collaboration those initial Networks provided.

We’re still in the early stages, but so far engagement has been excellent. Between the Food Safety, Packaging, and Technology Networks, more than 60 people have already volunteered. The Young Professionals Group has 45 active members, and the Women’s Council has over 200.

What’s exciting is that many new people are signing up for the Networks — experts in their fields who haven’t been involved under the Council structure. For example, automation engineers are joining the Technology Network, and food safety managers are joining the Food Safety Network. This is exactly what we were looking for. These experts encounter issues and challenges every day on the job that they can bring to the Networks and discuss with people encountering the same issues and challenges at other companies. The Networks can then bring these topics to the Councils so they can take steps to address them.

What have the Networks accomplished so far?

Each of the new Networks — Food Safety, Packaging, and Technology — have held at least one call. Now they’re in the process of deciding on their leadership (meaning who will represent the Networks on the Councils) and crafting their mission statements.

They’re also starting to work on their substantive topics. The Technology Network is talking about topics like robotics, automating data, and the integration between machines and plants; the Food Safety Network is considering issues like hygienic/sanitary design, global food safety trends and regulations, and track and trace protocols; and the Packaging Network is focusing on sustainability, minimizing recalls, and the skills gap.

Once they decide on the topics they want to pursue, they’ll start discussing how those topics are applicable to the different industry segments. For example, packaging sustainability issues might be different for pet food than for dairy or meat. They’ll raise these issues to the Council level to be integrated into the Councils’ working agendas. And of course, ultimately all of this information will be shared with the FPSA membership.

How will FPSA leverage the topics and content generated by the Networks?

To start, we plan to create educational resources, offer webinars, write blog articles, and facilitate social media discussions. There are many other opportunities as well. As one example, we commission global trends and forecasting reports for equipment sales in different industry verticals. In the future, we might consider studies looking at specific areas of technology and food safety.

Another thing we’re planning to do is take lessons learned from the Networks and apply them more widely across the organization. For instance, one of the things the Technology Network is discussing is communications formats, meaning how they can communicate outside of our regular conference call structure. Once they’ve figured out a model, we can recommend that same model to other Networks and Councils as well.

What’s next for the Networks? Any plans for 2019?

The goal is for the Networks to have their leadership, mission statements, and substantive topics finalized by December 15. At the Spring Annual Conference, we’ll have a special meeting for all of the Network members, as well as breakout sessions for each of the five Networks. We’ll also encourage all of the Network members to go to the Council meeting for their industry segment.

We’re also starting to develop plans for how to support the Networks at PROCESS EXPO 2019. These will include Meetups as well as presentations on the show floor.

Can people still join a Network?

Absolutely. There will always be an opportunity to join, whether that’s now or 6 months from now. We’re looking for more people to get involved on both the supplier and the processor sides. In fact, we’ve seen a lot of interest in both the Networks and the Councils from processors, who can join FPSA as Associate Members. We recently had someone from a large pet food processing company join the association just so he could be on the Pet Food Council.

Overall, the response to the Networks has been positive and exciting so far, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they develop as time goes on.

If you’re interested in learning more about or joining any of the Networks, email Dolores Alonso at DAlonso@fpsa.org.