New £900k Robotic Ingredient Handling project
Did you know as much as 5% of a food manufacturer’s turnover is associated with the costs of raw material handling, weighing and preparation? That number is set to drop as engineers, food technologists and computer scientists drawn from UK industry and academia collaborate to fully automate the preparation and handling of raw materials.
We're leading a major new industrial R&D project in collaboration with researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, and English Provender Company, an award-winning producer of condiments, dressings and marinades. The collaboration is part-funded by a UK Government grant of almost £900,000 from Innovate UK through its Materials & Manufacturing research fund funding stream.
The project is aiming to address the unique complexity of food manufacturing ingredient variability. In a given day, food manufacturers can deal with over 200 different raw materials with different states (solid, liquid, frozen, ambient and chilled), packaging format (bag, sack, box and drum), allergens and handling difficulties. It’s this complexity that to date has led to high manning levels, waste and inefficiencies in the industry.
Deploying our suite of APRIL Robotics Material Handling modules as our toolset at the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing, the research team is exploring how to integrate robotic and automation solutions at each step of the production process. The research will examine how processes such as product handling and weighing can be streamlined and made more efficient through new robotic technologies.
One of the APRIL Robotics technologies that will be used in the project is a micro-ingredient weighing station that uses a collaborative robot to weigh out free flowing and non-free flowing powdered ingredients to an accuracy of 1g. This technology was developed under a separate Innovate UK project between OAL and the University of Lincoln.
Mark Swainson, Deputy Head at the University of Lincoln's National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) is an expert in the field of industrial food processing technology. He will lead the research team which also includes specialists in robotics, automation and process control from the University of Lincoln’s School of Engineering.
If you would like to learn more about ingredient handling and preparation automation, you can join OAL and the University of Lincoln for their Food Manufacturing 2030 event. The event will combine expert guest speakers with breath-taking demonstrations, so you can learn how robotics is changing the way we handle and process raw materials.