It’s been a bright spot in a sometimes-dismal economy. Globally, milk production is expected to reach 827 million tons in 2020—19% over 2010—and dairy product sales are expected to reach $494 billion in 2015. The need for efficiency has been driving that growth, according to the 2013 edition of “Dairy Industry — A Market Assessment,” a new study produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

“The dairy industry is very interested in optimizing production, and with that comes a willingness to adopt new technologies and doing more with less,” says Jorge Izquierdo, vice president, market development for PMMI, the Reston, Va.-based owner of PACK EXPO tradeshows.

As a result, 80% of the processors interviewed for this study reported that they’re evaluating their machine needs, and out of that group, 75% plan to purchase equipment in the next 12-24 months. Wish lists include robotic controls, greater output, more inspection systems and energy savers like sleep mode.

Technologies like these will be front-and-center at the Center for Trends & Technology (CTT), sponsored by Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, Wis., and its Partner Network Program, at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, which takes place Sept. 23-25 in Las Vegas Convention Center.

“Line integrations, wireless configurations and diagnostics, mobile solutions and safety are few of the areas the displays at CTT will cover,” Izquierdo adds. “They’re also concentrating on solutions for enhanced productivity.”

Dairy manufacturers are also looking at product innovations, including aseptic processing, changes in packaging shapes and materials and food safety. However, in an industry that is already heavily monitored and regulated, good food safety practices are just one piece of the puzzle. Today’s dairy processors are focusing more on the documentation and record-keeping requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

“The study found that increasing production is their first priority, and FSMA is second for two-thirds of the manufacturers,” says Izquierdo. “Dairy processors are performing internal audits and acting upon them, implementing or upgrading their track-and-trace programs, creating a compliance manager job function and working on FSMA documentation. Their future machinery needs will center on easy-to-clean features and data collection that facilitates documenting operations.”

PACK EXPO’s Food Safety Summit Resource Center, sponsored by BNP Media, parent company of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, and GE Intelligent Platforms, will feature a roster of food safety experts who can help address these and other FSMA-related questions.