Automation of the food and beverage industry

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  Automation of the Food and Beverage Industry

By Nigel Smith, CEO, TM Robotics

According to a market research report by the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies entitled Trends in Food Processing half of the surveyed companies will increase their level of automation over the next three to five years. Nevertheless, many manufacturers admit that they do not know where to start. This article examines how automation can use food and beverage facilities.

Many industries have already made the leap to automated processes. But only in recent years has the food and beverage industry begun to truly explore what automation and robotics technology has to offer.

"The food and beverage sector is well known for having some of the most rigorous food manufacturing and control in the industry," said Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of industrial supplier EU Automation. "This is one of the reasons why British manufacturers are making relatively slow progress in automation, but this stance is slowly changing."

In addition to the willingness to adapt, many manufacturers have increased commodity and energy costs and trade pressures to experience a cheaper and faster production. Therefore, the installation of automation devices is considered as the only way forward, but the return on investment (ROI) must be noticeably worthwhile.

Evaluating Your Needs

When selecting the type of machine to incorporate into your facility, considering the actual requirements of your facility and processes will result in a more cost-effective and appropriate machine.

Imagine, for example, that you prepare a ready meal for frying. With this product, several elements must come together in an aluminum shell that will visually appeal to customers and be consistent in terms of weight and appearance. In a facility where this product is made, machines must pick up and move a wide range of products, from small carrots and broccoli florets to potatoes and meat servings.

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Having a machine that can be programmed to pick up, move and place objects means that you are less likely to dispose of damaged products to reduce unnecessary expenses. Selective Compliant Articulated Robot Arms (SCARA), such as those from TM Robotics, use a parallel axis joint. This means that the robot arms can move on an X-Y axis, but are rigid in the Z direction, which is ideal for picking up and placing.

Personalization is the key

Aside from choosing the right machine and software, exploring the additional options for the machine you choose is key to maximizing ROI. While human workers can look at a number of ingredients and find the best way to pick items based on their shape, position, and material, complete automation of these actions has not been possible until recently.

The integration of 3D vision systems will allow review of the products as well as determining the order in which the products will be taken and determining the best position for placement in the primary packaging. In addition to human capabilities, this type of software can also display and determine if product labels are correctly attached, contain the correct product information, and help you to meet industry regulations in a snap.

To go one step further You have the right software to automate this pick-and-place action. Without the right gripper, your processing line can still affect your profit margins. The use of grippers, the sensitive items such. B. roast carrot sticks, move with too much force or cancel, can lead to a high volume of waste. In this case, the decision for a machine capable of adjusting the power to lift a product based on the data processed by sensors and software results in less waste and a perfect end product.

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and Beverage Industry's Business Contribution and Growth Opportunities report, 73 percent of food and beverage manufacturers are engaged in automating manufacturing processes, while 46 percent are engaged in warehousing and logistics automation.

With significant developments that change the way the equipment works and make it clear focus on revolutionizing the industry, it's important not to assume that all robots are made equal and that those with fancy features and a high price tag you with one be left without problem. If you take the time to assess exactly what you want to achieve with the investment, you can sometimes get involved with a simpler solution.


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