Olympus Automation (OAL) said its new factory, to be built in Peterborough, will support its Automated Processing Robotic Ingredient Loading (APRIL) Robotics Systems development. The robots will automatically carry out common repetitive tasks, including weighing dry micro-ingredients – a task which 529,800 people currently carry out, OAL said.
OAL md and owner Harry Norman said: “We’re committed to eliminating manual handling in the front end of food processing, and the new APRIL facility gives our team a great space to develop and demonstrate what that means for food manufacturers.
‘The front end of food processing’
“We have a strong reputation for building large scale material handling projects, and advanced manufacturing software, and the APRIL developments complement these thriving parts of the business.”
The factory was expected to be opened in January 2018. The automation firm will recruit up to 55 engineers to support the development of APRIL Robotics, it said.
Using robots will provide food manufacturers with better consistency, said APRIL Robotics lead automation engineer Stephen White.
“The great thing about a robot is that it will always do what you tell it to do,” said White. “Whereas, a person will go off and make little variants of what you asked them to do, because they think they know better.
‘Consistency is absolutely spot on’
“The robot won’t. It’ll do exactly what you tell it to do, and it will do it exactly the same every time. So, your consistency of product is absolutely spot on.”
The new factory plans came after the Food and Drink Federation told FoodManufacture.co.uk in April that robotics and automation would create more skilled jobs in the future. Investing in automated technologies and upskilling existing employees is key to improving the productivity levels of the industry, the FDF added.
Meanwhile, it was revealed this week that more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs – including food and drink manufacturing – had been lost over the past 10 years. The Office for National Statistics said 17% of British manufacturing jobs had disappeared since 2006 – the equivalent to £11.3bn in wages. See the map below for more information.
New OAL factory – at a glance
- Factory to build robots to complete food manufacturing repetitive tasks
- 55 engineers to be employed
- Factory to open January 2018