KANSAS CITY — The ongoing labor shortage coupled with a lack of skilled applicants for open positions is fueling the sustained spending spree on automation and new equipment, and many companies expect the workforce dilemma to remain an issue for the foreseeable future. That was the main takeaway from interpack, the global packaging and processing show held recently in Germany.

However, investing in automation and getting new equipment are two separate challenges. Although supply side issues have subsided in some areas, many equipment companies complain that processing components and key electronics are still hard to come by, especially in a timely manner.

During the trade show, many exhibitors told Supermarket Perimeter sister publication, Baking & Snack, editors that the issue is especially acute with the most popular and widely used components preferred by North American companies. While other global providers have ramped up their supply chain of processing components, many US food companies don’t want to switch to different controls because they don’t like to have multiple operating systems and their maintenance crews might not be as familiar with them.

In some cases, companies have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in building equipment and one small component that costs a few hundred dollars is preventing them from completing the delivery. In other cases, exhibitors said they have delivered equipment without the key processors, which ties up valuable cash flow because many customers often won’t pay the full amount until the equipment or production line is fully operating in a satisfactory manner.

All agree they’re managing the issue better. Delivery times are getting a bit shorter, but the supply chain is far from being fixed.