|By SMC Corporation Australia New Zealand Craig Sheppard Sales and Marketing Director.
The food and beverage sector accounts for around 32% of the country’s total manufacturing turnover and is reported to be worth around $122 billion.
On the global front, the food processing market is expected to grow by 6.04% (CAGR) between 2020 and 2027. This puts pressure on manufactures to fast-track productivity and improve their efficiencies year-on-year.
Based on this, it’s clear to see why I say that being present in a factory is the best way to grow with a manufacturer. By understanding their challenges, witnessing their automation (and output) in action and being part of their successes, we enable industry acceleration, competitiveness, and growth.
What’s trending in food automation?
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic saw a positive uptick in automation. Right now, companies are changing the way in which they work. They’re focused on rapidly and continuously addressing challenges around productivity, downtime, energy savings, safety, hygiene and staying competitive in a tough climate.
Other issues addressed by manufacturers is that of a reliable workforce, and workforce accessibility. Whilst labour is expensive, Covid-19 enforced lockdowns taught some harsh lessons with respect to staff accessing workplaces and the need for social distancing created its own set of challenges – especially in plants where productivity (both day and night) is crucial.
And while workers will always be needed, many companies are now reassessing the workforce to ensure that they are adding value and making a difference to the company’s bottom line.
Key drivers for the shift to more automation are as follows:
1. Avoiding downtime
Most food plants operate 24/7, so a halt in food production can be costly and time consuming. Most areas are arranged in a continuous flow with one area being dependent on the activity of another – from primary material integration, to processing, and finally, packaging. The OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) can be substantially improved by applying digital predictive maintenance solutions, training operators, and maximising product reliability.
2. Productivity linked to automation
While this traditional, fast-paced industry has been lagging in automation penetration, robotics, and its stemmed technology (cobots) are key drivers for enhanced productivity and automation on the factory floor.
Some of our team members are dedicated to understanding and developing solutions to complement robotic technologies. We offer gripping technologies and a wide range of plug and play gripper end-effectors for the majority of cobot suppliers.
3. Reducing costs by optimising energy efficiency
Food factories are energy demanding; they represent 19% of the whole manufacturing industry’s energy consumption. SMC’s energy saving task force can analyse your plant and help you realise savings and efficiency gains.
4. Machine safety and hygiene
Safety and automation work hand-in-hand, and safety valves form a fundamental part of our product range.
Founded 60 years ago, SMC operates in 83 countries, employing 19,000 people across the globe. It has an R&D engineering team of 1450 and an 8200-strong sales force, who are experts in their field and enjoy a close working relationship with SMC’s customers.
To deliver automation solutions for its diverse customer base, SMC offers more than 12,000 basic products with over 700,000 variations.
SMC is the world’s leading pneumatics provider and has been voted for three consecutive years as one of the most innovative global companies by leading business magazine Forbes and is listed in the FORBES Global 2000 as one of the world’s largest public companies.