Automation: Is It Worth It for Small to Midsize Food Manufacturers?

Automated manufacturing processes have led to incredible increases in throughput and efficiency for manufacturers in all industries. However, automation adoption has been low in food manufacturing due to a variety of factors, including product fragility, product complexity, and food safety concerns. However, modern automation solutions provide significant guaranteed value while risk to product quality and safety is negligible.

This post will cover the primary ways automation solutions provide value for food processors, as well as further addressing some potential concerns. This post will be the first in a series that will allow food manufacturers new to automation to learn more about the technology and how the solution integration process works.

Reducing manual interaction in the production process.

Automating unit operations will obviously reduce the number of people required for line operation. This, in return, allows for more efficient allocation of your current workforce, so your employees are in the right spot at the right time. Minimizing the amount of people necessary to operate the process can also allow for additional production shifts without increasing your current workforce.

Reducing manual interaction also creates faster production throughput. While this isn’t guaranteed, generally automated production processes mitigate or remove manual bottlenecks. These eliminated bottlenecks will cause better productivity per hour of line time.

Gathering data on your products and processes.

Modern automated process equipment will generally come equipped with the necessary sensor systems that allow for real-time gathering of important process metrics, which can be used to make better-informed decisions on process parameters.

Automated process equipment can also help you stay on top of maintenance requirements. Advanced equipment can self-monitor and warn operations about necessary preventive maintenance before there’s an issue. This keeps your production healthy and organized by being able to schedule repair downtimes in advance.

Automated production processes can also be integrated directly into an ERP or similar program, unlocking the full potential of that software to provide important analytics and business connectivity.

Addressing concerns: Food safety

Food safety is any manufacturer’s number one priority and automation shouldn’t compromise that. Modern robotics solutions can be fabricated to fit any food safety program, including full wash-down capabilities and food-safe contact surfaces for end-of-arm tooling.

CIFT can provide guidance on how an automation solution can best fit your needs. To schedule a complimentary assessment, contact Matt Inniger at minniger@ciftinnovation.org or (419) 704-0614.

Interested in learning more about automation? Keep an eye out for our next blog on the solution integration process.

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