Feature article

Food industry is ideal for industrial robot adoption

A new PMMI report finds that manufacturers are increasingly using robots as costs have come down and the performance and dexterity of robotics have improved.


The market for industrial robots continues to grow rapidly as new uses and opportunities supplement existing applications. While the majority of industrial robot deployments have been articulated robots used in the automotive industry, usage has grown in the food and beverage industry, according to Industrial Robot Opportunities in Food and Beverage Processing, an industry report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. 

The report states that usage has accelerated as costs have lowered, while performance and dexterity of robotics have improved. Within the food and beverage industry, robots have previously been limited to tertiary and some secondary packaging tasks, such as palletizing, because some have not met the standards for direct food contact. However, suppliers are increasingly developing robots suitable for handling unpacked goods and subsequent washdowns. 

Articulated robots still account for the majority of industrial robots used in the food and beverage industry. However, the report says, the last decade has seen an increased focus on the opportunities for using robots in primary packaging and food processing applications. 

The labor-intensive nature of the food and beverage industry creates ideal opportunities for industrial robot adoption, particularly as robots are increasingly designed to meet stringent health and safety requirements.

The food manufacturing sector has been slow in incorporating industrial robotics, according to PMMI’s report, partially because of the large base of small to medium-size enterprises (SMEs). The reluctance of SMEs to invest is influenced by a range of factors, including low labor costs, market demand variations, and an understanding that some robots are not suited for handling varying and delicate food products. However, the increase in market demand (and as such need for greater throughput), lack of low-cost labor and advancements in robotic technology over the past decade has led these food manufacturers to reconsider robotics. 

The report also says that a common argument in support of industrial robotic usage is that it can relieve workers from jobs that are dull, dangerous or dirty. And with current low levels of unemployment, robotics can allow workers to focus on more creative and higher value tasks, as well as protect them from repetitive tasks causing injury and unpleasant working conditions. 

Download the free detailed executive summary of this industry report at https://www.pmmi.org/report/industrial-robot-opportunities-food-and-beverage-processing

Learn more about robotics at PACK EXPO Las Vegas from Sept. 23-25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The trade show will debut its Robotics Zone this year. Register by Aug. 30 to save 70 percent off the registration fee for PACK EXPO Las Vegas.

To learn about how Just Born Quality Confections is using robotics to enhance its packaging line, read "It's a marshmallow world that just got brighter."


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