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Editorials

Why food and beverage companies should automate warehouses?

by Axium
Axium Robotics & Automation ULC

How a warehouse can turn as a competitive asset for the food and beverage processors?
Are those companies ready to automate warehouses?

Food and beverage companies have a lot of experience with automation and robotics in their manufacturing processes, but still rely a lot on manual labor for their warehouse operations. As the cost increase, mainly because of labor, combined with the multiplication of SKUs and the rise of small orders from retailers, companies are now spending more time looking for automation and robotics solutions for the warehouse side of their business. Issues like bio-mechanical injuries, absentee costs and high turnover rates are incentives to increase the automation and robotics in warehouses.

Incentives to increase the automation and robotics in warehouses.

Mixed load pallets provide a great example where automation and robotics offer a valuable solution. Food and beverage companies’ warehouses have to prepare more mixed load pallets than ever before. One of the challenges is to build that pallet to the retailer’s specifications, where accuracy is critical. Doing this sequencing manually can easily turn to a nightmare. Things get much easier with a warehouse management software and robotic palletizing cells. Finally, fewer damages will be done on the products with a robot compared to manual palletizing.

When thinking about food and beverage warehouse, we cannot avoid talking about temperature controlled facilities. The benefits of automation are even more valuable because of the higher operating costs. Better storage density is essential to reduce energy costs, where some report savings by 80%, and finding employees to work in refrigerated or freezing environments is not an easy task. This is probably why the gross refrigerated storage capacity in the USA had a steady growth since 1995 and that North American cold chain logistics market should experience a CAGR of 14% for the next five years.

To maximize the return of automation technologies, companies have to focus not only in identifying the proper solution, but need to prepare an implementation plan. In numerous cases, automation and robotics fail because of insufficient planning. Even if the technologies are great, we cannot underestimate the human factors in those projects. Planning, communications and, of course, training are as important as the electronics and software.

Sources: foodlogistics.com, technavio.com, usda.mannlib.cornell.edu, apfoodline.com, foodproductiondaily.com

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