Moving From Man to Machine

The implementation of robotics in food and beverage facilities yields various benefits that can lead to a higher throughput and a decrease in expenditure beyond labor savings. Robotic machinery can help to alleviate warehouse workers from challenging...


When considering any robotics system, it is imperative that a company checks to make sure sanitary standards are at the highest level in order to prevent contamination. Robots that are useful in the food industry should be able to withstand an acidic and alkaline wash down in order to prevent the robots from rusting and to prevent the growth of bacteria. These robots are generally in accordance with a protection rating of IP 67, which means that the robot is dust proof and protected against sporadic submission in water between 15 cm and 1 m.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved robotics equipment meets the standards of sanitary design, which further decreases the risk of contamination and will ensure the ability to safely sanitize equipment.

When it comes to flexibility, many robotics systems can be mounted in many different positions such as ceiling, floor or wall mounts. This feature increases the robots usefulness in tight facility spaces.

“Robotics automation in the warehouse actually performs a significantly higher throughput per square foot than any other technologies, manual or otherwise,” says RMT’s Torrens. “You could process twice as much product in half as much space.”

 

Future expectations

As robotic technology matures, industry experts agree that robots are getting a lot more sophisticated and more accommodating to food and beverage customers. One of the latest advancements allows robots to “see and feel.”

According to Stuart Cooper, vice president of sales at Flexicell in Ashland, Virginia one example includes advances in integrated vision, which helps assure robotic guidance. The latest vision system innovation is hyperspectral imaging that can see more than the human eye can see because it has the capability to observe a broader range of wavelengths.

Robotic fore-sensing, which gives a robot the ability to feel, is another technological advancement.

“That’s more in the developmental stage, but I see that becoming a bigger part of robotics going forward,” says Fanuc’s Motley.

Industry experts say higher safety developments are another key area that will get more attention in the future. For instance, Fanuc’s Dual Check Safety (DCS), which can help monitor robot speed and avoid hazardous situations, is an important step toward a safer work environment.

With the use of the DCS program, Motley says it’s “more reassuring, more user-friendly and more comfortable for the operator to understand how the robot system works.”

Ultimately, this will help take away the intimidation factor of handling a robotics system, he points out.

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