Automation has transformed the food processing industry as robots are ideal for repetitive tasks involving arduous work. Automation with cobots is an ideal path to innovation throughout the food industry, enabling them to achieve greater competition in the market, explains Pradeep David.
Automation has transformed the food processing industry as robots are ideal for repetitive tasks involving arduous work, which requires precision as well, both in packaging and processing. Automation in food processing industry allows efficient workflow and labour use, resulting in an efficient allocation of resources as traditional food quality assurance with human visual inspection was inefficient, inconsistent and tedious. The new tech computer vision now allows automatic inspections on food products, enable a more accurate and consistent food quality evaluation. The ability to collect, store, and track data of all events in production operations allow the food manufacturers to comply with food hygiene and environmental regulations, identifying areas of concern.
Cobots are a combination of light, easily programmable, flexible, economical and safe robots that are extremely strong. They are ideal for gripping, moving and transporting packaged food which requires a delicacy of touch as well as precision. They have become the third or the helping hand in production constituted to take over mundane, repetitive, physically demanding tasks that require precision and efficiency. They also have the fastest payback period which makes them economical.
Automation with cobots is an ideal path to innovation throughout the food processing industry, enabling them to achieve greater competition in the market. They also make it possible to achieve greater consistency, with less spoilage and better quality. The collaborative robotic arm / cobots from Universal Robots are a great advantage for multiple application areas in food production chain including production, processing, and distribution. Cobots update food and agriculture industries to the latest level of technology. In the food processing industry, the quality of the products and their faultless further processing and handling is especially important. The gripping of already packaged food and its preparation for transport is a matter of delicacy of touch and precision – criteria that can easily be fulfilled by lightweight cobots. The robotic arms provide assistance with the same as they are designed to mass-produce goods of a certain standard of quality. The incorporation of cobots in the Indian food processing industry will help in meeting the market requirement while keeping up with the quality. Cobots can free up the workforce from repetitive or dangerous tasks while saving them from working in harsh food processing environments such as heat, cold, or unpleasant work. The robots from Universal Robots can take over dirty, dangerous, and dull jobs to reduce repetitive strain and accidental injuries while freeing up human operators for qualitatively higher tasks.
Heavy packaging tasks are no longer a challenge to employees or staffers, as the robots are always powered up and ready to work – with no need to rest. In the food processing industry, the quality of the raw materials and ingredients are important, and the consistency and gentleness of all their subsequent processing and handling is just as important for maintaining that quality and cobots are perfect for this. Robotic arms like the Universal Robots’ UR3, UR5 and UR10 carry payloads of 3kgs, 5kgs and 10kgs respectively. This enables them to assist with a broad spectrum of food processing industry applications. UR3 and UR5 are used for simple tasks like picking, placing and assembling whereas UR10 has been designed for tasks that require precision like packaging, palletizing, etc. They act as a catalyst in speeding processes like cutting, chopping and logistics within the premise to increase efficiency.
The food processing industry is growing at 8% and is an exciting development as cobots play heavily in end of line packaging automation, an essential area to be competitive for food processing industry. Cobots will further transform the industry as they allow human-robot integration with a seamless production line, and enabling cobots to adapt well into any working space and environment with minimal disruption. They are multi-functional tools that can act as a screwdriver, packaging device, palletizer, gluing application or just as a “helping hand” which empower the employees further. This will ensure that humans can spend their working hours doing more constructive, creative, and intelligent tasks.
Cobots function to increase the productivity of the workforce as they are accessible and easy to use, the employees too, are excited to work side by side with their robotic co-workers increasing the efficiency along with the quality and quantity of production. Progresses in advanced robotics are set to revolutionize manufacturing and F&B industry from model labor intensive to a more efficient and productive alternative centered on intelligent and programmable machines.
The author is General Manager, South Asia, Universal Robots and Cobots.