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Food Trends for 2019: Robotics & Automation

By Michael Collins, May 17, 2019

Tags: Food, Food Trends

A new year means new trends in regard to the Food production and manufacturing industries. New means of production mean brand new, burgeoning markets that are now just in their infancies. In the interest of looking ahead toward the future, let’s review one of the most anticipated food trends for the year 2019, robotics in the food service and food production industry.

We can move directly into the concept of automation as it pertains to the food production and growing industries. Robots. We are aware of them, some may fear them, and they are becoming more and more prevalent in commercial spaces. This could not be truer for the food and beverage industry. This is especially true for fast service style food providers and restaurants. You may have noticed recently that your local McDonalds, perhaps in lieu of totally complying to the increase in the minimum wage mark (depending on the state), there are touch-screen ordering kiosks. These self-serving kiosks are just the tip of the iceberg in regard to automation in food service. Little by little, on the prep line, in the factories, human interaction is being replaced by robotic arms that are programmed to make the same recipe or same product on the line over and over again with little-to no error. It’s not always the easiest thing to digest, that we are being bested by the technology that we created. Thusly, we are inventing our way out of our own jobs, to a degree that is. This movement towards automation and robotics in the food processing and food service industry is as much a financial solution and it is an innovative solution. The strains of today’s tight labor market have ushered in these innovations. Food service providers are struggling to level the playing the field when it comes to labor costs and availability.

There are some undeniable advantages that may sting for us to admit but need to be noted nonetheless. First of all, the use of robotics and automation means a system which is programmed to operate a task the same way every single time. This means that the margin of error has been significantly diminished. If the programming is precise and accurate, and the application is flawless, the lack of human interference is considered an advantage. You also need to consider the ability of robotics and automation to sidestep certain food safety problems attached with human employees. For example, you don’t need to constantly remind a robotic arm designed to package beef patties that it needs to wash its hands before returning to work. Human error will always be a factor that production lines must consider. So, is it really any wonder why businesses are turning to methods that eliminate the potential for human error?

Operationally speaking, robots are a heaven-sent gift that make formerly monotonous tasks an afterthought. The streamlining of food production operations via robotic automation has garnered criticism for eliminating jobs in excess. It is an inevitable outcome. The introduction of robotics for the purpose of streamlining operations, increasing efficiency and cutting cost will result in the elimination of human-held positions. Whether or not we’re ok with that reality coming to fruition is different discussion entirely.

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