Traditionally, robots have played a prominent role in industrial manufacturing. However, due to their repeatability, speed, accuracy, flexibility and safety, the role of robots is rapidly becoming a staple in operations for the food and beverage industry. Automation technologies, including robots, are becoming a core element for food and beverage processing and packaging companies and are integral to protecting brands, market shares and ultimately profitability.
Robotics have made it possible for food and beverage processing and packaging companies to vastly increase the scale of factory automation over the past few decades. Industrial robots have become the backbone to manufacturing facilities of all sizes and types, in all parts of the world. This increase in robotics integration has resulted in higher production rates, improved quality and improved safety—all by reducing the effects of challenging work environments and eliminating the impact of external environmental factors.
Collaborative research within the industrial automation industry has identified six common ways robots strengthen food and beverage processing and packaging operations to support production goals while protecting brands, market share and profitability.
1. Increase production output rates
Robots can run for long shifts, overnight and during weekends with little supervision. This enables true around-the-clock production runs to increase output rates. New products can be introduced faster into the production process and changeover time becomes almost negligible. Handling multiple applications on a single production line can be done with minimal disruption to existing processes. Many applications, such as cookies coming out of an oven on a conveyor, are picked and placed into their primary packaging. The packs are automatically placed into cases, ready to be palletized. Each application may be configured specifically for the end customer. For example, Costco may have a different packaging and palletizing requirement than Sam’s or BJ’s. With a robot installed at each critical control point, orders can be picked, packaged and palletized automatically to meet each customer’s unique requirements—eliminating errors that can occur with manual packing.
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