New advances in the robotics industry specifically designed for the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry are becoming the standard in more and more companies of all sizes. Before the onset of COVID, you generally only saw these types of robots incorporated into food processing and packaging production lines in larger plants. With the changes forced by the pandemic, sanitary and social distancing requirements have meant that they are becoming more widely adopted today out of necessity.
Some of these advancements include autonomous intelligent mobile robots that can be moved from one work area to another when needed. These robots provide many features including handling payloads up to 1,500 kilograms and employ lasers to provide 360 degrees of safety for the working area. Many robots have on-board sensors for precise pickup and placement of materials.
There are many new 6-axis robots with various payload sizes that can be used as a standalone robot or as part of a line in end-of-line application — such as packaging, kitting, material handling or palletizing. These automation robots are quickly being adopted by manufacturers across the industry.
New features, smaller sizes and lower prices make today’s robots more versatile than ever before. They are more quickly and easily adaptable to a variety of specific needs throughout a CPG manufacturing facility — many able to change tasks throughout the day as a company moves production from product to product.
New ideas and technologies
Basic robotic technology is rapidly evolving — and one of the areas of advancement is in object recognition. Engineers have had great success in improving a robot’s ability to do bin picking — including taking known images from the Cloud, instead of storing the data in the robot’s control system. When the robot receives images and pertinent data, it will assess what the item is shaped like — which helps it determine the best way to pick it up, where it’s stable, and how to remove the item and place in position for packaging.
The advancement in new gripper technologies working with flexible soft food grade items has been amazing. The newest soft gripper technology allows CPG providers to explore new possibilities for food and beverage, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals automation. Soft grippers can easily handle a wide array of irregular shapes such as fruits, vegetables and delicate objects without damage. These grippers can improve production with higher quality and reduced waste.
Expanding into many areas of supplying food products
There has been a tremendous growth of applications for robot technology in farming — including producing, picking and supplying the food products to the processing plants. Robots are being introduced into areas that they have never been applied before. Robots and cobots are moving beyond just becoming more usable, and more utilized within the manufacturing industry.
Robots are no longer the last thought that companies consider. Now they are beginning to be the first thing that CPG companies turn to for solutions. Whether it’s a fixed robot, or a cobot (collaborative robot), the fact is that robots are becoming much more adaptive and versatile than they ever were before. They are driving a new revolution of change within the Consumer Packaged Goods industry.
Remote Access critical in today's workplace environment
One technology that has seen increased usage in the food industry is Remote Access — particularly since the start of COVID-19. Remote Access Technology is the ability to remotely access plant floor equipment, or specific devices and systems, either by in-house engineers or operators — or even third parties such as OEMs and system integrators.
Remote Access technology has been available for some time, but its use has become a necessity and is being more readily adopted throughout the CPG industry to meet pandemic distancing restrictions.
Augmented Reality will transform employee training
Augmented Reality is a newly emerging technology that modifies a real-world view by superimposing a real-time computer-generated sensory image, sound, video, GPS data, or graphics, in a semantic context. This technology offers a composite view of the environment and an enhanced perception of reality.
Training CPG staff — both in the plant and remotely — can be conducted in a way that has not been possible before using Augmented Reality. This technology provides workers of all skill levels the ability to walk through a step-by-step process to smoothly perform any required task. The technology has been developing very quickly over the past several years and — once again, has seen an accelerated level of interest due to COVID in the past year.
Electronic machine controls for over four decades
We are proud to have played an integral part in the operation and control of many different types automation and robotic manufacturing systems, including food processing and packaging machinery for the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry.
We hope you have benefited from our first issue of EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL and have learned something you may not have known before. In future issues, we will provide you with information on the latest trends and advancements for a wide variety of industries that depend on c3controls products as an integral part of their machine controls.