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KUKA & Projx - A collaborative recipe for success in automation

At FoodEx 2023 KUKA & system partners Projx showcase solutions for the food & beverage industry

21 April 2023

The food and beverage industry uses robots because they can improve efficiency, reduce labor costs, and increase accuracy in tasks such as food processing, packaging, and delivery. Additionally, robots can help maintain consistency in food quality and safety standards while also reducing the risk of contamination.

As KUKA and system partners Projx prepare to attend FoodEx - The UK’s leading trade event for the food and drink processing, packaging and logistics industries - We asked Rob Allum why he thinks the food industry has been slow to adopt robotic technology, and how robotics and automation are alleviating manufacturing challenges for SMEs across the sector.


What are some of the challenges facing Food & Beverage manufacturers in today’s current climate?

Food Manufacturers in the UK have been hit by a combination of challenges over the last couple of years in terms of COVID, Brexit and the war in Ukraine. These have led to sharp increases in prices, particularly around energy and import costs at a time when there is also a shortfall of 330,000 people in the UK labour force, mostly in the low-skilled economy.

How might automation and robotics be helping to alleviate these challenges?

Now is the perfect time for companies to look at automation and robotics as a solution to the challenges presented by the uncertain availability and increased costs of staff. Reducing labour, improving reliability and removing possibilities of human error will all lead to a quick return on investment with improved yields and consistent results.

The Food & Beverage industry has been relatively slow to implement automation into existing process flows. Now, as the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, how are attitudes changing?

The Food & Beverage industry has embraced automation and robotics in secondary packaging for box filling and palletizing, but has been slow to realise the benefits of inclusion at the processing and primary packing stage of the production process. There were initially concerns regarding hygienic construction and accuracy of robots, but the newest ranges of machines feature full wash down capabilities along with intelligent vision systems to guarantee accuracy. Customers are beginning to see the advantages that are now available and the future is clear to see.

There is a misconception that robots are taking jobs, but the skilled labour required to sustain the industry simply isn’t there. How are we able to convince the public that robots are in fact creating opportunities and not compromising them?

Currently, there simply is not sufficient labour available to fill the positions required in the food processing industry so robots are increasingly required to allow companies to maintain the required production levels. The World Economic Forum estimated that while 85 million jobs would be replaced by machines by 2025, an estimated 97 million new jobs would be created to help support this new economy.

Robot manufacturers are producing food grade robots as fast as the sector itself evolves. What are some of the technologies that are available that are supplementing process chains, and what are the benefits that are being realised?

Food grade robots are already common and will become standard in production facilities across the UK as time progresses. Robots are flexible enough to work in a range of environments – from cold, wet salad factories to hot, dry bakeries. Intelligent and accurate vision systems allow for consistent results which improve product yields and reduce labour and utility costs. Robots are hygienic and easy to clean, and can eliminate any manual handling issues.

How can Projx and KUKA help manufacturers optimise their existing process flows: what solutions might be available and does one size fit all?

With global experience in process improvements, Projx and KUKA can design and deliver industrial automation using vision and motion control systems. We are able to deliver stainless steel hygienic, washdown robots including infeed and integration with existing equipment. Unlike other vendors that offer a system and adapt it for a particular use, we custom design from the ground up based on individual customer requirements.

Projx are experienced system integrators and have the advantage that we are able to design complete factory layouts in 3D CAD, and for process control we write our own software in-house to deliver a complete project with operator and engineering friendly control panel with data logging including remote support. With in-house engineering and automation teams, we are able to offer a full solution to all food processors from the smallest operators to the largest food processing plants - Find out more about the company and the innovative solutions they are delivering into the food industry here