Arguably the biggest challenge faced by the food and beverage industry in 2022 is the inability to source sufficient labour. Uncertainty and unpredictable demand caused by COVID-19 have resulted in constantly fluctuating workforce availability. Following these labour shortages, F & B manufacturing has looked to automation to fulfil the simpler, more repetitive tasks at hand, allowing human workers to focus on more cognitive tasks.
Automation is nothing new to the food and beverage industry, in such labour-intensive manufacturing, robots are vital to increased productivity and efficiency. However, following recent COVID-induced labour shortages, the introduction of cobots ushers in a new era. Cobots offer a more collaborative method of automation, working alongside those operating them.
In the food & beverage industry, increased automation can lead to improved execution of product delivery, and a reduction in food wastage. In turn, this contributes to better margins – no mean feat in an industry with ever-inflating prices. Cobots can be used in many applications across the manufacturing process, including picking and packaging of fruits and vegetables and completing specialised tasks where increased hygiene is required, for example allergen free foods.
- Cobots are a human-friendly way of automating, working collaboratively with manufacturers to ensure safety and increase efficiency.
- Cobots have minimal spatial and environmental risks in comparison to the traditional manufacturing robots. By allowing cobots to undertake more dull, dangerous tasks, workers are less likely to take time off work due to injury, and more likely to enjoy their role, improving retention.
- They are often lightweight and easy to integrate with workers, removing the need for traditional moving machines and production lines.
- Cobots ability to learn and evolve makes them cost effective, they are easy to reprogram and generally simpler to maintain.
- Cobots often require significant capital investment, which manufacturers may not see return on in the short term
- Although there are significant waste-reduction benefits in the use of cobots, organisations must consider the environmental impact of cobot manufacture, and the additional impact of powering the machines
- Increased unemployment can be an obvious disadvantage of the use of cobots. However, in an industry where labour shortages are rife, cobots would arguably reduce the burden on an overstretched workforce.
Cobots are just one example of the way which the Food and Beverage industry is changing with the times. If you’d like to learn more about automation and how it can help transform your business, please contact Mark Boswell, Head of Food & Beverage at 4C Associates, at firstname.lastname@example.org.