Robotics in Action – Top Five Takeaways

By CFIN Newsdesk posted 06-20-2022 10:07


The Canadian food industry is currently facing numerous challenges, from labour shortages and supply chain disruptions, to increasing input costs and changing consumer expectations. Many of these challenges are common to manufacturing, grocery and foodservice sectors, and can be addressed by automating processes so that they are faster, safer and more reliable. 

While the shift to automation has been slower in the food industry than in other industries, the use of automation, robotics and data analytics has the potential to transform Canada’s food and beverage industry. By investing in technology, the industry could become more agile, traceable and transparent, while growing capacity and ensuring our food supply chain remains strong, sustainable, and competitive in the world market. 

On May 12, 2022 CFIN presented its second members-only event, Robotics in Action: Seeing is Believing. The virtual event was sponsored by Farm Credit Canada and hosted by Jim Beretta, president of Customer Attraction, a marketing consultancy which focuses on robotics, automation and applications. 

Beretta spoke with several Canadian entrepreneurs whose companies are leading technological change in the food industry, and demonstrated cutting-edge automation solutions at Western University, Mycionics, Ghost Kitchen Brands and 168 Sushi, and robotic systems from SJW Robotics, Anubis 3D, Gastronomous Technologies, JMP Solutions, Armo Tool and Tiny Mile Robotics. 

 Here are the top five takeaways from the session: 

1. Automation and robots don’t reduce jobs

Robots and automatic systems are designed to do the tasks that are dangerous, dirty or repetitive and are a solution to current labour shortages in the industry. While robots perform tasks such as picking and packing, employees are freed up to complete more value-added and skilled duties. Collaborative robotic systems are designed with added safeguards so that they work side-by-side with their human counterparts.  

 2. Automation is becoming more efficient and less costly

In the last decade, costs of implementing automatic systems or robotics have fallen, while performance and consistency have increased dramatically. There are also many new advancements in gripping technology, resolving older robotic challenges such as distinguishing between different sized and shaped products or boxes. 

3. Robotic systems can be integrated into existing operations

Automation systems and robotics are now easier to integrate into food operations, and are often designed so that companies can add one piece of technology at a time to ensure success and worker comfort. Working together with technology companies, food businesses can integrate plug-and-play components or create unique, custom-designed system featuring different technology modified to fit their needs.  

 4. Automation can lead to lower energy and input costs, while boosting food safety and capacity

Technology that provides food producers with real-time data analytics enables them to optimize the use of energy and raw materials, reduce food and energy waste, and achieve higher production capacities. Data analytics can also be used to predict preventative maintenance in the system and prevent drops in throughput. Many companies rely on robotics that target sanitary compliance to safely and reliably assemble foods such as protein and uncooked ready-to-eat meals for retail or healthcare, where safe food handling is crucial. 

 5. Automated foodservice offerings go far beyond vending

Quick-service kiosks that offer a wide range of hot and cold food choices like salad, pizza and cooked noodles are appearing on campuses, in malls and in other public spaces. Far beyond vending machines, the kiosks offer made-to-order meals prepared while you watch in just minutes, with a variety of customizations and payment options available. With a low carbon footprint and minimal labour needs, the kiosks have the potential of replacing QSR units in some locations. 

If you have a digital solution to make supply chains safer and more agile, apply for our Food Innovation Challenge. Applications are due July 7th.




06-22-2022 09:19

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