Automation refers to a series of pre-programmed technology implemented in the food and beverage industry – usually at the food manufacturing or food processing plant. Technological advancement can range from a basic sensor opening and closing of a valve to stations manned by robots to deliver accuracy and speed in production1.
Most large scale food processing plants enjoy the benefits of integrated automation such as reducing cost of production and increasing productivity. However, some small and medium sized businesses are apprehensive in implementing automation1. It is commonly misunderstood that once this process is implemented, certain activities in the pipeline – such as labor force and other operational tasks – have to be reorganized. As there are substantial financial considerations and cost of lost production during the installation stage, automation appears non-feasible. For businesses commencing the automation process in the earlier phases, they are limited by the size of the business and extent of automation. They counter this limitation by adopting a centralized control system3.
Based on a 2017 market research study by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, the shifts toward healthier and convenient dining options serve as business opportunities for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)2. There is an untapped opportunity to meet exponential consumer demands for healthier-eating choices such as gluten-free and non-genetically modified ingredients2.
According to the PMMI 2017 Trends in Food Processing Operations Report, robotics is currently utilized in 30 per cent of processing operations and 94 per cent of packaging operations2. Through automation, OEMs enjoy the flexibility to be more efficient in the production process, allowing them to be more reactive in responding to retail changes in real time. Furthermore, automation helps businesses translate quicker read times for vision equipment, self-diagnostic reports for preventive maintenance and better connectivity between operating systems2. This improves efficiency and speed in production.
The food and beverage industry is facing higher levels of competitiveness and regulatory compliance3. However, businesses can attempt to solve these challenges by improving automation levels.
- Engineering Specifier. (2017). Process automation in the food and beverage industry. [online] Available at: http://www.engineeringspecifier.com/control-systems/process-automation-in-the-food-and-beverage-industry
- Automation World. (2017). The Future Food and Beverage Industry. [online] Available at: https://www.automationworld.com/article/food-and-beverage/future-food-and-beverage-industry
- Nutraceutical Business Review. (2016). Taking control of automation in the food and beverage sector. [online] Available at: https://www.nutraceuticalbusinessreview.com/news/article_page/Taking_control_of_automation_in_the_food_and_beverage_sector/123697