5 Advantages of Automation in the Food Industry
Manufacturers are grappling with numerous challenges that are captured by the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) issues, and are applying various strategies as countermeasures. If your manufacturing, assembly or shipping processes are complex and difficult to fully monitor, then automation can help by giving you a global view, interconnecting your machines and obtaining valuable information for your business.
Automation is the most effective method towards succeeding in these conditions. Automation in the food industry – alongside robots, artificial intelligence and IoT – enhances food quality and brings several other advantages to the food industry.
Industry players can apply automation to streamline their processes and enjoy the following advantages of automation in the food industry.
1. Food Safety and Quality
Many food companies are rightfully concerned about the safety and quality of their products. There are so many touchpoints along the supply chain, and sufficient quality control is necessary at each of them.
With modern automation in place, it is easier to discover problems at any point in the supply chain in time.
Automation in the food industry helps companies to pinpoint the source of a quality issue. Remedial measures can then be put in place, meaning that the issue is unlikely to recur.
For those who are struggling with meeting tough quality standards, automation can offer a solution. Automated production can ensure that standards are met, and quality levels are reproduced reliably.
2. Enhanced Efficiency/Productivity
Is your food business increasingly struggling to match the demand? Have you reached a point where you feel that scaling up would be the right step? Implementing just a few automated solutions in your processes may be all you need to enjoy the efficiency and productivity advantages of automation in the food industry.
For instance, automation in the food industry can increase the flexibility of your production line. Modularization – segmentation of production – is one of the most notable improvements that enhance flexibility. You can introduce improvements in one segment without having to slow down the other segments.
Automation increases the efficiency and profitability of a company, but it has a positive effect on its employees’ tasks as well. Once automated solutions are implemented in a company, employees are freed from non-value-adding and/or repetitive tasks and allowed to concentrate on tasks that require human intervention and know-how. Automation also creates opportunities for employees to upskill, combining their experience with the processes in their organization with automation-related technical skills to work on new challenges and optimize processes further.
The fact that automation enables data mining is also important for businesses looking to benefit from data analytics. An automated system makes it easy to collect lots of data that provides crucial insights.
3. Improved Employee Safety
There are so many risks in the food industry, specifically in manufacturing – chemical hazards, blades, heat, and so forth.
Automation can be an effective countermeasure because it deals with risks associated with the infamous “three D’s” namely, dirty, dull, and dangerous.
Even if most food processing factories prioritize employee safety and training, there is still exposure to heavy machines, dangerous chemicals, and extreme noise. For instance, workers in food retail facilities may be prompted to perform repetitive reaching and lifting, which exposes them to injuries.
Automation can support workers and allow humans to move away from such harsh environments.
4. Higher Traceability
Traceability is a significant aspect of retailer compliance for manufacturers in different industries. However, having an extensive or complex supply chain can make it difficult to offer traceability.
Larger food businesses can take advantage of automation for its streamlining capability. Some businesses are already using this technology alongside IoT devices to enhance traceability.
A food processing plant can get a lot of information regarding the condition and location of an item at any given time using a set of gadgets and tracking solutions. It can generate a timeline of a product as it moves along the supply chain – from raw materials to the final product.
Even more, devices could be used to get more insights during the manufacturing phase. Accurate tracking of products can help control material flow or determine the best combination of ingredients.
The increasing role of automation in traceability is seen in robots that can be programmed to offer support in inventory management. In combination with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)-fitted items, these robots can align to the warehouse schedules. They could be used for timely delivery of food products to the market.
5. Superior Brand Reputation
Brand reputation is an essential element in the industry, especially where the competition is stiff. A single product recall or disease outbreak could mean not only risk to customers’ health but also the closure of a business. Businesses need to maintain excellent relationships with their clients at all times. Implementing automation safeguards a company’s image and offers a competitive advantage through high-quality products.
In a stiffly competitive industry, the struggle to retain customers is tough enough. Those who are ready to implement automation and other innovations stand a higher chance of building customer trust and increasing their earnings. With the rapid evolution of the industry, users are demanding high quality of products and transparency in the supply chain. Automation helps achieve consistency, which is crucial for brand reputation.
Change is in full gear in the food industry, particularly after the instability that came with the coronavirus pandemic. No matter the size or type of food products you handle, automation is worth considering. The advantages of automation in the food industry – food quality, scalability, lowered costs, etc. – are too exciting to ignore.
AMR ABB Robotics is a proud supporter of many food companies with its robotic solutions, providing AMRs for autonomous transportation; from production to storage processes, fresh goods, and temperature-controlled environments. We can help optimize your food operations for more accurate performance, eliminate bottlenecks, and ultimately, improve your bottom line.