ITO Thailand Hygiene Blog

May 15 2023

Robots & automation in the food industry

            Many issues in the food industry can now be solved with new technologies, one of which is the introduction of automation and robotics into the food production process. Today, we would like to present some of the issues with which automation and robots can help.

Production efficiency issues

            Robots and automation can help speed up production, resulting in a greater daily production capacity. They also improve process efficiency. For instance, weighing several pieces of meat together to reach the required amount on the package. Using an automatic weighing system can increase the speed of weighing food and allows quick calculations so that the result is closer to the required weight. This makes it possible to reduce the amount of excess weight in each bag. Or in the case of moving objects (e.g., raw materials, products, packages, boxes, etc.), the use of robots and automation can help sort and move targeted objects quickly and accurately.

            In addition, robots and automation can also increase the efficiency of space utilization in the production area. For example, in some production processes where space is limited and an additional production line cannot be built, adding robots to production line bottlenecks (e.g., palletizing areas) can increase production output. In the case of a cold room/freezer room with limited space, including limited space for building a new cold room/freezer room, installing a mobile rack system can increase the storage space in the existing cold room/freezer room. The system also allows the installation of a product counting system and automatic locating of products in the warehouse.

Issues of errors in the production process

            Robots and automation are highly accurate and can reduce production errors caused by human factors such as health, fatigue, distraction, rushing to complete large volumes of work, or insufficient staff, etc. The use of automated systems to help verify the accuracy of quality and safety, such as OCR systems, sensors, still and video camera, (Read more: Use of AI in the food industry) will reduce erroneous products and identify the root cause of the error more quickly. This has a positive effect on the sustainability of the production process as it can reduce waste.

Employee well-being

            Some parts of the production process affect the health and well-being of employees, such as noisy areas, processes that involve the use of hazardous chemicals (e.g., substances with carcinogenic risk, substances harmful to the respiratory system, strong corrosive acids, or alkalis, etc.). Similarly, some production processes require working with sharp objects, such as using a knife to trim or dissect food pieces, if employees are tired, they are prone to accidents. Or lifting heavy packaging can also affect the health and back injuries of employees. In addition, in a work condition where it is a wet process with high humidity, the employees may be exposed to the risk of Athlete’s foot. Production and storage conditions that require temperature control also affect the employee’s well-being. For instance, in production processes that use steam or high temperatures, there may be a risk of accidental hot water or scalding. If the employees have to work for long periods in cold storage or freezer conditions, it is also dangerous. Therefore, the use of robots and automation to assist in the production process or these risky areas can reduce the dangers to the employees or help improve their well-being at work.

Contamination issues

            Food safety is the core of food production in every era. The introduction of robotics and automation to assist in production processes that require food contact, especially in high-risk food zones (Read more: Risk-based zoning of production areas), can reduce human-borne contamination such as hair, threads, jewelry, dirt, and even microorganisms from the human body (Read more: Contamination caused by humans). Robots and automation require hygienic design, the materials used must be safe, can come in contact with food, are not corrosive, do not contaminate food, have few corners, and can be cleaned and disinfected as appropriate.

6 things to know before starting a robotics and automation project

            If you want to introduce automation or robotics into your organization, what are the required preparations

            You can contact and talk to the team of Ito (Thailand) here by preparing only 6 details for mutual understanding.

           1.Process: What is the production process that requires the use of robots or automation? What do you want the system to do such as drilling, picking, placing, collating, welding, weighing, etc.?

           2.Product: What is the nature of the workpiece or product? Is it food pieces (easily broken or not, type of humidity)? Or is it in a bag, a can, a box, etc.?

           3.Target: Targeted expectations compared to existing ones, such as wanting to increase production speed, reduce the number of employees, reduce the amount of waste, etc.

           4.Area: Area for placing robotic or automated systems in the production line area

           5.Cost: Project budget to calculate the break-even point

           6.Others: Other specific requirements such as high/low temperature operation, non-sparking, food contact grade materials, standards, etc.

           When Ito (Thailand) has received these issues, we will be able to design products that are specific to your needs and design 3D simulation to see the possibilities before the actual build to meet your requirements.

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