Thanks to labor efficiency, boosted productivity, and greater flexibility, robotics play a larger role in processing and packaging lines than ever.
PMMI: The Association for Packaging and Processing Professionals partnered with business intelligent outfit DDR Communications to ask packaging professionals, integrators, automation suppliers and others about attitudes toward automation. In “Trends in Robotics Market Assessment 2014,” conversations with various experts reveal a shift in attitudes and comfort with automation technology.
Donna Ritson, DDR president and report author, said automation’s presence in processing and packaging has grown significantly in a relatively short span of time.
“When we studied the robotics marketplace in 2008, only 20% of manufacturers used robots to package their products,” she said. “Today, 75% of end users use robotics at some point along their manufacturing lines, and the capabilities for food and pharmaceutical processing are game-changers.”
She added automation technology has spread from an end-of-the-line position, to throughout the processing and packaging process.
“Robotics got their start in palletizing,” Ritson said. “Now they’re coming up to the front of the line, for processing and depalletizing.”
As much as automation technology has progressed in recent years, survey respondents indicated they expect further progress in the not-too-distant future.
The people polled reported that additional sanitation improvements will expand the opportunity for direct contact with food, costs will continue to lower, vision sensors will boost precision and handling capabilities, and robotics will attain greater speeds and higher load capacities.
Paula Feldman, director of business intelligence for PMMI, pointed out while robotics are credited for cutting labor and operating costs, they lead to job opportunities for tech-savvy staff.
“Expect to see growth in job functions such as integration services, mechatronics engineering, robotic training and operating, and PLC and servo programming,” Feldman said.