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Top 3 Takeaways From IPPE 2024

Steve Hixon

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Steve Hixon and Maggie O’Quinn at IPPE 2024

Steve Hixon and Maggie O’Quinn at IPPE 2024

This year’s International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) delivered an experience focused on global technology, innovation, and environmentally friendly products and solutions. Along with the exhibition, educational sessions were offered by the North American Meat Institute, American Meat Science Association and Women’s Meat Industry Network. Industry leader in sustainability research, Dr. Frank Mitloehner, delivered the Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit keynote address. Opportunities to connect with friends, colleagues, customers and prospects were plentiful and enabled dialogue and demonstrations you just can’t have on Zoom. Attendance was heavy and it appeared most exhibitors were busy and thriving in conversation – a great sign for our industry.

Here are my three biggest takeaways:

Automation and technology continue to get more savvy.

The three halls at the Georgia World Congress Center were packed with exhibitors and the most popular segment featured automation and technology suppliers. One of the highlights was BAADER Food Processing Machinery. Their exhibit included an automated portion control sorting line.

Based on the product and customer order specification, small containers speed down a production line to a human who loads the containers. These containers sort themselves and align to meet the required order specifications. Products not meeting the specifications are kicked back through the automation line for another sort. Fascinating!  Another technology I found very interesting is STORCAN’s Automatic Close & Strap Machine, STRAPALL. This production line solution automatically closes and straps different size boxes randomly via an automatic adjustment system without operators. Both of these are great examples of how automated technology is not replacing humans, but helping them work smarter and faster.

Innovation is helping the industry stay safe.

Regarding innovation, safety was a big driver.  One game-changing safety system was demonstrated by GUARDIAN, who presented the industry’s first bandsaw with a zero-accident track record. This is a key innovation for both production lines and supermarket butchers, helping to instill confidence in the most novice team members cutting meat products on a further-processing line or to consumer orders in a retail store. Pair the GUARDIAN bandsaw with Eagle’s Diamond Textured Nitrile Gloves, and you have extreme protection and durability. Their statement at the show caught my eye, “Our gloves are tougher than herding caffeinated squirrels through a maze of unicycle-riding flamingos.” Corny but clever. It’s amazing to see the ways that the industry continues to evolve by harnessing human ingenuity and design skills to protect workers.

Eco-friendly solutions span a wide range.

I viewed several demonstrations that incorporated environmentally friendly features. The highlights included SEE’s new Cryovac® brand compostable overwrap tray.  The solution was developed as a sustainable alternative to traditional EPS trays for processor production lines and was tested to meet the demands of the food value chain. The compostable tray will break down into organic material without leaving toxic residue. Another eco-friendly innovation is FoodSafe Drains, hygienic drain solutions that provide a safe, clean alternative to the standard trench drain. It’s a seamless solution that removes the moving parts of difficult-to-clean trench drain systems and the maintenance issues associated with them. My last stop was at ClearH2O where I took a look at their latest agricultural innovation, AquaBeads®.  This innovation is designed to help poults locate their starter feed so they can get valuable nutrition and hydration they need for a strong start and improved health and growth performance. From packaging to equipment to feed, the industry continues to focus on solutions that keep the environment at the forefront.


FoodSafe Drains Display
The week was stimulating from both an educational perspective and a human-to-human connection standpoint. IPPE is an epicenter of international experiences and one that offers high energy to kick off the year. I believe the relationships developed and the learnings gained will prove to be valuable for many people and businesses around the world. Mark your calendar for January 28-30, 2025 for next year’s IPPE!

About the Author

As a member of the Midan leadership team and vice president of customer engagement, Steve Hixon manages teams in customer insights, public relations, new business development and account management. Skilled in both crafting long-term visions and monitoring progress through data analysis, Steve has helped successfully create, execute and manage multimillion-dollar food and entertainment campaigns for clients including Coca-Cola, Walmart, the NFL and the NCAA. Within the meat industry, Steve’s expertise is in beef production, and his passions lie in ensuring meat protein selections are delivered to their most valuable position. Steve connects with each of his teams personally and enjoys helping clients achieve measured solutions year after year.
Steve Hixon