Aside from the established arguments around efficiency, accuracy and speed, food safety is a major factor in the increasing deployment of robots in the food production process. Improved sanitary designs means robots in food and drink sector are well suited for work in an environment where cleanliness is essential. Reducing human contact with food products helps reduce the risk of contamination, thus improving reliability and efficiency.
- Automation of production lines, pick and place: the need for varied production schedules, accurate pack counts and retail-ready packing has driven the move towards increasing robotics in food and drink production.
- Packaging of consumer products: from case packing to bundling and bagging, there are a number of tasks robots can perform. Tools such as vacuum grippers, and clamps integrated with sensors and vision technology enable robots to be able to handle small and delicate items. Flexi pickers, attached to robot arms, can drastically improve efficiency for packaging even the most delicate of products.
- Palletising finished goods is a common robot application. A wide variety of tools can fit on the end of arms capable of handling from single items, to full rows, or even layers of product, depending on the size and bulk of the products. This use brings about increased end-of-line efficiency, as well as improved flexibility and cost savings.
- Cooking: robots are good at relatively repetitive tasks – so preparing and cooking meals can fall into this category, and we are seeing an increasing number of applications such as pizza robots, burger robots, and even cocktail robots.
- Food delivery: mobile robots are being developed to work in restaurants which enable the waiting staff to spend more time with customers, rather than walking backwards and forwards from kitchen to table.
- Warehousing: Robots are dramatically changing the way warehousing and logistics work. In addition to reducing costs and increasing efficiency, robots are delivering low error rates, flexibility, improved safety and improved customer satisfaction. Please see our Logistics and warehousing section for more detail.