In a recent food processing market research report by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, 50% of food manufacturers indicated that operational improvements involving automation would receive the most attention over the next 3 – 5 years.
Additionally, 20% indicated an interest in upgrading the use of robotics on their production lines. These initiatives come from a variety of factors driving innovation across both automation and robotic equipment investment and development. In fact, 30% of processing operations and 94% of packaging operations use robotics, with both sectors predicting growth. Food processors and manufacturers are anticipating investments in these areas due to unique consumer demands, employee retention and training challenges, recall management, track and trace and remote equipment diagnosis to name a few. However, it all seems to boil down to one thing across all parties, and that is convenience.
Training and retaining skilled talent to operate a line of automated machinery or robotic equipment continues to be a challenge for food processors. In fact, recruiting, training and retaining skilled employees to operate automated machinery remain one of the critical concerns of food manufacturers for 2017. To put labour demands into perspective, there was approximately a 5 percent reduction of employees within the food manufacturing sector while the number of food and beverage manufacturers increased by nearly 15 percent from 2008 to 2014. To remedy the situation, food manufacturers are looking toward suppliers to simplify equipment with more intuitive human machinery interfaces (HMI) and toolless assembly and repair, while also replacing difficult repetitive jobs with intuitive automated machinery.
Source: Food Engineering Magazine