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Challenges of Automation in the Food Industry

Food and Beverages | Thursday, April 29, 2021

Automation has immense potential in the food and beverage industry, but many challenges restrict the adoption process. 

FREMONT, CA :Many of the challenges in the food and beverage industry could be solved with automation. Different modes of automation must assist with many of the industry's problems, both long-standing and newer ones, like staffing accordingly, ensuring quality and safety, keeping product moving out the door, and meeting the demand for SKU variety. The food industry has a long history of being slow to embrace automation, and this trend shows no signs of changing.

Food Processing consulted experts who described several factors limiting automation adoption, including the complexities of food and beverage manufacturing and the cost and uncertainty of both hardware and software. According to them, overcoming these fears is both inevitable and necessary.

Perhaps the most significant obstacle is the fear that comes with every modern, complex technology: that it won't work, or at least not as advertised. Concerns over downtime and staff preparation are also closely related. Here are two common challenges that the food industry struggles with while applying automation. 

Step by step

Automation frequently occurs in small steps, where a processor, especially a smaller or mid-sized one, provides the essential requirement. It's why many manufacturers make their fillers, depositors, and other bakery processing tools on the wheel.

Fragmented automation, on the other hand, also comes with a long-term cost. It's all well and good to remove bottlenecks one by one, but it leaves the restaurant owners with a patchwork framework that's difficult to coordinate or develop. The most significant implication is the difficulty in gathering data for supervisory software like an enterprise resource planning system or a manufacturing execution system.

Packaging automation

Packaging automation is much more advanced than manufacturing automation in several food and beverage plants. It is primarily because the packaging is a discrete assembly procedure with several repetitive steps that can be automated.

Even packaging automation encounters challenges regularly. When a packaging machine breaks down in a food factory, production must either stop or be stored at a point upstream with enough ability to buy time required to get the packaging machine back on track. 

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