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Top 10 Challenges for Food Manufacturers

By Jeff Chilton   |   

Food manufacturers face unique challenges on a daily basis. In my 30+ years of food industry experience, I have seen these challenges first-hand. Based on my experience, I have identified 10 key challenges that food manufacturers face. Whether you’re a line supervisor, plant manager, or operations manager, chances are you’ve experienced some of these challenges with some frequency.




Pressures on cost, quality, and meeting customer demands

The challenge: The manufacturing environment is fast-paced, and supervisors are faced with multiple demands, all vying for their attention. These constantly changing demands force us into firefighting mode, which is not an efficient long-term strategy.

The fix: Reduce the number of fires in the first place by establishing systems that work. If you find yourself fighting the same fires every day or week, you’re probably not implementing the procedures, practices, and systems necessary to identify the root cause of the problem and fix it. We must have the commitment to carry out that fix in order to prevent recurrences in the future.

Lack of leadership

The challenge: Supervisors are often pulled in different directions, strained for time, and focused on meeting the most immediate demands. As a result, they may not be leading in an optimal way.


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The fix: Lead your team, don’t just dictate. Commitment is key—help employees take ownership of their own processes and make sure they feel part of the collective goal. Demonstrating your own commitment to your team encourages others to get on board.

Lack of follow-through

The challenge: Lack of follow-through is one of the biggest problems that we see in various types of food manufacturing facilities. Team members identify the problem but fail to follow up on it.

The fix: Don’t just pinpoint the problem itself but identify the root cause of the problem. Then, implement the processes, procedures, and systems necessary to fix it. By following through initially, we save ourselves time and resources in fixing the problem in the future.

No clear vision on future goals

The challenge: Manufacturing facilities are often so busy keeping up with day-to-day demands that they lack clear long-term vision on future goals.

The fix: Once you have solid systems in place, define your facility’s vision and culture. Then, communicate the vision to get employees going in the same direction. Make your goals measurable so that you can hold yourself accountable.

Lack of employee engagement

The challenge: Employees are crucial to the success of any manufacturing facility—they will make or break a safety culture. If employees are not engaged, they put product, quality, and safety at risk.

The fix: Ensure your training methods are up to date and engaging. Then, go out on the floor and coach employees to confirm that they know what they’re supposed to be doing. Finally, utilize 24/7 communication tools to keep training topics top of mind.

As food manufacturers, we need to elevate ourselves above these persistent challenges so we can devise and implement systems that work. Once we have systems in place, we must check them to ensure they’re working properly. Remember—long-term solutions will by definition have more lasting effects than quick fixes.


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About the Author

Jeff Chilton currently serves as Vice President Consulting at Intertek Alchemy. For over 20 years, Jeff has consulted with hundreds of food manufacturing firms to develop and enhance their food safety and quality programs, environmental safety and health, and operations management. Prior to consulting, Jeff worked in the food industry for 15 years as plant manager of two large food processing companies, as well as a director of quality assurance earlier in his career. Jeff is a contributing writer for several national trade magazine and has spoken on food safety and quality topics for numerous trade associations. Jeff is a Certified Lead instructor by the International HACCP Alliance and a FSPCA Lead Instructor. He also teaches Basic and Advanced HACCP and Preventive Control for Human Food courses for client companies and in public courses.

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