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Kevin Lobo, FB Tech Review | Tuesday, June 08, 2021
Although automation has enormous potential, and it also has daunting obstacles that stand in the way, the fact that automation can theoretically solve many of the food and beverage industry’s problems cannot be ignored.
Fremont, CA: Food as an industrial sector has lagged in adopting automation, and it shows no signs of abating. Many forms of automation have the potential to help with many of the challenges, both eternal and relatively recent, which the industry faces, like staffing adequately, maintaining quality and safety, and satisfying the demands for SKU variety. Experts have identified some factors that might be slowing down the adoption of automation, such as the nature of food and beverage production and the expense and uncertainty of both hardware and software. The experts also add that overcoming these concerns is both inevitable and vital.
In most of the food and beverage plants, automation is far more developed in packaging than processing. Yet even with packaging, automation faces obstacles. For decades, the packaging trend has been to thin-down films, bottle walls, and other materials partially to save money. However, some of the waste is recycled, but that also presents problems for packaging equipment, specifically in older machines. Another challenge to automation packaging is the need for flexibility. Therefore the users are looking for a sweet spot where they can reduce manual labor in the budget rather than looking for full automation.
Man and Machine
Despite a plant being automated, floor workers always need to monitor or otherwise interact with equipment, and they need to be prepared to do so. Operators have the power to make or break the success of a new automation system. Those on board need to receive training to handle the sophisticated, efficient piece of equipment. But unfortunately, some factors pull the companies away from providing adequate training, and this problem is increased due to employee turnover, where new people have to be trained continually.