Robotics – for the food factory of the future

Robots have been used in a number of industries for many years now. Walking into a car factory, you’d be hard pressed to look around and not see some kind of automation and robotic solution helping build the chassis or deliver parts to line. Yet within food processing, the UKs largest manufacturing sector, larger than both automotive and aerospace combined, the use of robots across the board is still not yet common practice.

Some larger food factories are beginning to introduce robotics into low care environments. For applications such as packing, or pick and place, robotic solutions are available albeit cumbersome and lacking in process flexibility. For true manufacturing applications, and specifically within high care, very limited options are available to the market. With exceptionally high requirements for hygiene and clean down processes, this area of food manufacture traditionally struggles finding solutions that fit the bill. Throw into the mix the ever-changing need for recipes and product changeovers, traditional robots just don’t offer the flexibility required to keep costs low, and productivity high.

But what is the alternative? We already know that traditionally low-skilled labour could be restricted in the near future as a result of the government’s latest announcement on immigration. With an ever-increasing living-wage, pension requirements, training and additional costs associated with employment – is 2020 the time to start looking further into how robotics can actually help reduce inhouse costs? Furthermore, the wide-spread nervousness around viruses such as COVID-19, present a challenge to food manufacturers, ensuring there are no staff shortages impacting production, and no risk to contamination of the end product.

It’s clear that with the changing and challenging environment ahead, robotics is a solution that can help overcome the upcoming hurdles food manufacture is facing. However, it’s down to machinery manufacturers, such as Millitec, to develop effective solutions for the industry. That’s why our latest robot, “igene” is designed to help overcome these challenges.

igene is a flexible, portable and hygienic solution to sandwich manufacture. Offering wet and dry lidding, matched halving and double stacking, the robot is capable of being wheeled line to line, with quick clean-down and set up time, to mimic a human on a production line. What’s more, depending on the shift pattern of the factory, the initial investment in igene could be recovered in less than 8 months. No more sick days, lunch breaks, oversubscribed car parks or escalating wages, robotics is a clear solution to manpower struggles for your sandwich production line.

But robotics in high care doesn’t stop there. We need to continue to develop solutions to make the food factories of the future as efficient as they can be. Offering in-line ingredient detection, selection and placement, high care environment delivery robots and fully autonomous production solutions, we’re working closely with the largest food manufacturers to make sure their challenges are covered for the next generation of food manufacturing.