Consumers around the world have become increasingly aware of how their food choices can affect their own susceptibility to becoming obese and to acquiring other related diseases. As the consumer demand for healthier food options continues to rise, government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States are requiring increasingly stringent food safety regulations.
Along with a rising demand for advanced food packaging materials, improved productivity at a reduced cost and greater food-shelf life are some of the many reasons food industries have turned to robotic systems for help1.
Improving Food Safety
The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the outbreaks of major food borne related illnesses have nearly tripled over the last 20 years, accounting for the sicknesses of approximately 48 million Americans and 3,000 deaths each year2. The use of robotic systems is expected to provide several benefits in relation to food safety.
Robotic systems are capable of promoting a more sterilized environment for various food production processes through several ways. By taking extremely precise counts during production that cannot be performed by the operator, a robotic system is able to track any possible foreign particles that could affect the overall quality of the food product. Additionally, by removing the human worker from a given production process, robotic systems eliminate any possible contaminants that could be transferred from the worker to the food products.
Improving the Labor Process
The implementation of robotic systems has the potential to greatly reduce rising labor costs that are associated with the greater demand for food products. Food product processes often require repetitive and efficient tasks that can be limited when performed by human beings. Robotic systems in this industry will not only improve the overall quality and consistency of food products, but will also allow for healthier and better tasting food to be readily available for consumer purchase.
By reducing labor costs, robotic systems in the food industry are also capable of reducing the rising costs associated with healthier food options.
Several food industries have also looked to robots as a way to reduce the possibility of workers getting injured while on the job. Both fatal and non-fatal injuries and illnesses often plague workers in the food industry, therefore an immediate resolution to this problem could drastically change the health of these workers and overall success of the producing companies.
FANUC in the Food Industry
FANUC America Corporation is a leading supplier of robotic systems used in manufacturing processes around the world. While FANUC serves almost every industry imaginable, ranging from aerospace and composites to electronics and agriculture, its application in the food and beverage industry has been particularly successful. FANUC’s robot models are capable of improving the overall safety, energy efficiency, process consistency and all sanitation requirements during the food production process. With payload capacities ranging from 0.5-2,3000 kilograms (kg), FANUC’s systems are an ideal option for any food industry’s automation needs3.
As the use of robotics in the food industry is becoming more of a normalized concept, the innovation applications of these systems have increased in creativity as well. One example of a unique integration between robots and food production is San Francisco-based robotic startup Momentum Machines. In 2012, Momentum Machines introduced a robot capable of producing 400 made-to-order hamburgers in under an hour. This completely autonomous machine performed each of the required tasks to produce the hamburgers, of which involved slicing toppings, grilling the patty and full assembly of the final product.
While some may be skeptical of the complete replacement of human workers by robots, Momentum Machines states that job growth would actually be promoted in the process. Such technologies would require continuous improvement and maintenance, especially when introduced into other restaurant locations. While the full impact of such robot-powered food production is not fully known, its future seems promising.
- “$2.1 Bn Food Robotics Market – Global Opportunity Analysis And Industry Forecast 2017-2022 – Research Markets” – Business Wire
- “Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States” – CDC
- “Food & Beverage” – FANUC