APRIL Robotic Chef on BBC Radio 4

APRIL the robotic chef appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme "The Kitchen Cabinet". Jake Norman, Innovation Manager at OAL explained the robot cooking concept to host Jay Rayner.

Robot Taste Test

Jake Norman, OAL's Innovation Manager with Jay Rayner

Jake Norman, OAL's Innovation Manager with Jay Rayner

A feature of the show was a taste test between an APRIL cooked broccoli and stilton soup and the same soup prepared by the professional chef,  Tim Hayward.
As expected, Tim Hayward's soup came out on top, but the panel did commend APRIL's soup for matching the colour and tasting cheesier. 
APRIL's soup benefits from OAL's Steam Infusion fast cooking process that has been proven by the University of Lincoln to emulate homemade products better and enhance dairy flavours.

Removing Humans from the Cooking Process

Being a cooking show, discussions turned to the interesting debate of removing the human chef from the cooking process. Jake chose to highlight the dichotomy between the passion for cooking and the need to eliminate food waste and become more sustainable.

Should I pump or pour my soup, sauce or ready meal?

Should I pump or pour my soup, sauce or ready meal? As part of our APRIL robotic chef development we’ll be investigating the quality, efficiency and practical benefits of pouring liquid products over pumping.

A potential benefit of pouring product is the better replication of how we cook soups, sauces and ready meals in kitchens. Prior to serving up a delicious chunky vegetable soup, you wouldn’t expect Delia Smith to pump the soup through five meters of pipe. And whilst pump technology has been developed over the years to minimise damage, for a high particulate soup, it’s logical that pouring could offer quality enhancements.

If you are interested in testing pouring your products, APRIL is installed at the National Center for Food Manufacturing, Holbeach where we can test your products.

McKinsey Report: Where will Automation Replace Humans in Food Manufacturing

Food service and manufacturing sit at the top of a recent McKinsey report that analysed work activities rather than occupations as a predictor of automation. By identifying jobs with predictable physical work, data processing or data collecting, they were able to assess the technical feasibility of automation.

By breaking down jobs by activities, up to 59% of time spent at work in the US is highly susceptible to automation. Further analysis suggested that food service and manufacturing were more suited to automation than others i.e. many activities within food manufacturing are highly susceptible to automation.

Technical feasibility of automation in food

The McKinsey report highlights food manufacturing and food service as highly susceptible to automation due to the activities involved in the jobs (see figure 1). The main driver for this is the high amount of time people spend on predictable physical work. Often in food factories, people will undertake a high number of predictable activities such as lifting product, moving ingredients etc. (see figure 2).

In our experience, the trend fits for our customers who manufacture a smaller range of SKU’s and have already been able to automate a high number of the predictable activities. This is in contrast to chilled food manufacturing, where upwards of 40 SKU’s can be produced per day and predictable and unpredictable activities become intertwined.

One major part of the puzzle will be splitting out the predictable from the unpredictable physical work, thus enabling higher levels of adoption of robotics. For instance, lifting ingredients into a saucepan is a predictable task but judging the taste of the food requires the expertise of a chef, hence it isn’t so susceptible to automation.

We’re working with the University of Lincoln to develop robotic systems that provide manufacturers the flexibility to split out the predictable from the unpredictable thus enabling greater levels of automation. APRIL, our robotic chef installed at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing enables this flexibility by breaking down activities in a different way to traditional manufacturing processes.

Food Manufacturing 2030 Conference

If you’re interested in how automation and robotics could change food manufacturing, join us at the “Food Manufacturing 2030 Conference”. Learn and discuss the future of food manufacturing with industry leaders whilst OAL’s robotic chef APRIL cooks up lunch.

Click to register for the Food Manufacturing 2030 conference

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Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Figure 2:

Food Manufacturing 2030 Conference - APRIL to Cook Lunch

Get your lunch cooked by a robot and learn what food manufacturing could look like in 2030.

Join us and other food industry leaders to ponder what food processing will look like when we’re in driverless cars at the “Food Manufacturing 2030 Conference” at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, Holbeach this UK on Thursday 13th October.

See the future

The food industry is ripe for change as it faces a perfect storm driven by the living wage, flat line productivity and food deflation. We believe in order to meet these challenges the industry must transform itself with flexible robotics and automation over the next two decades.

Share in our vision of the future and join us on Thursday 13th October; listen to expert speakers and watch demonstrations as we debate food manufacturing in 2030. Designed for senior food professionals, the event is FREE to attend, and we expect strong discussions as we shape the future of our industry.

Click to register for the Food Manufacturing 2030 conference

APRIL will cook your lunch

Our APRIL robotic food processing platform is pushing barriers and attendees will get a taste of the future as she’s cooking lunch. Watch the future of ready meal production as APRIL (Automated Processing Robotic Ingredient Loading) effortlessly twirls a pan around the food processing hall combining ingredients, cooking and cleaning with no human intervention.

Expert Speakers

We’ve brought together thought leaders from across the food industry to provide insights into why and how the food industry will change by 2030. Speakers include:

  • Simon Lushey, Specialist Technical Manager at Marks & Spencer, will be speaking about why innovation is important to retailing.
  • Ann Savage, Technical Specialist (Former Group Technical Director at Bakkavor), will be speaking about the future of chilled food manufacturing.
  • Steve Osborn, Food Technology Scout, will be discussing the consumer trends that will shape food manufacturing moving towards 2030.
  • Andrea Paoli, Senior Lecturer in industrial automation and robotics at the University of Lincoln, will be speaking about robotic technological developments.

More expert speakers are set to be announced. For an up to date list, please visit http://www.oalgroup.com/food-manufacturing-2030-conference/

Who should attend?

The event is designed for senior food processing and industry professionals looking to learn how robotics and automation will transform their food businesses. Expected delegate job titles include:

Managing Director, Operations Director, Technical Director, Innovation Director, General Manager, Technology/Innovation Manager, NPD Manager, Continuous Improvement Manager

Click to register for the Food Manufacturing 2030 conference

Successful APRIL Robotic Food Processing Launch & Slides

We launched APRIL the robotic chef at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing during a conference with the University of Lincoln focused on understanding how robotics and automation will change food processing.

Food manufacturing is facing a perfect storm driven by the living wage; flat lining productivity and food deflation. Advanced technology and robotics can address these issues yet the UK is seriously lagging the developed world in its implementation.

Speakers discussed different aspects of this challenge which culminated in live demonstrations of the APRIL robotic chef system installed at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing.

Moving forward our vision is to create a Global Centre of Excellence for Robotic Food Manufacturing at the University of Lincoln to:

  1. Educate the industry.
  2. Partner with visionary early adopters.
  3. Deliver disruptive change in manufacturing.

The APRIL system developed at the university demonstrates the potential of robotics to deliver competitive advantage for food manufacturers and how they can overcome existing challenges e.g. traceability, flexibility, adaptability, quality etc.

If you share our vision and would like to get involved, please contact us now.

We will be holding a follow-up event on Thursday 13th October where we will demonstrate lights out food manufacturing, register your interest here.

Speakers included:

  • Andrea Paoli, Senior Robotics Lecturer at the University of Lincoln explaining the basics and future of robotics.
  • Jeff Nowill, CEO, Kuka Robotics UK on the intersector knowledge transfer opportunities for the adoption of robots.
  • Ian Beauchamp, OAL’s Head of Process Engineering on the challenges robotics can overcome on the shop floor.
  • Mark Swainson, Principal lecturer on the challenges robotics can overcome on the shop floor.
  • Harry Norman, OAL’s Managing Director describing his vision of robotic food manufacturing.

Delegates also spent time understanding two Innovate UK projects currently being undertaken at the university; Steam Infusion cooking and cryogenic cooling.

Here are the slides from the day:

For more information please contact OAL

Biographies of Speakers:

Andrea Paoli
Andrea has been a Senior Lecturer in Industrial Automation and Robotics since 2014 at the University of Lincoln, where he serves as the Programme Leader for the brand new BEng Automation Engineering programme. He is a Senior Member of IEEE and a member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society UK organising committee.

Jeff Nowill
Jeff is a chartered engineer; having completed an apprenticeship at Dunlop Aviation, and a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Coventry University. He joined KUKA in 2009, and is CEO of the UK and Irish operations, and sits on the board of ESPRC’s RAS network. KUKA boast a turnover in excess of €3 billion, as a world-class manufacturer of industrial robots and automation solutions.

Ian Beauchamp
Ian’s background is control engineering and business. He draws on over thirty years’ experience working for companies such as P&G and APV within R&D, design, project management together with leading product, service and engineering activities. Ian facilitated Performance Optimisation projects within the food industry in a global position utilising Six Sigma and Lean Methodologies.

Mark Swainson
Mark’s industrial background is Technical and Operations Management within the high risk chilled and frozen food industry. He is listed on the European Food Safety Authority Food Safety Experts Database, is an experienced Lead Auditor and a member of the Institute of Packaging. Mark conducts industry based research to address specific food industry challenges; Quality, Safety and Hygiene Control Systems, Advanced Process Technologies & Automation, Food Supply Chains, Microbiological Safety and Shelf Life

Harry Norman
Harry was just 28, with only a few years of industry experience and a 1st class degree in controls and automation when he founded OAL (Olympus Automation Ltd) in 1993. OAL now supply cutting edge food manufacturing systems for leading blue chip clients such as Allied Bakeries and Bakkavor that have increased the efficiency and consistency of their manufacturing operations.

Agenda: APRIL Robotic Chef Launch Event

How will robotics and automation change food processing?

08:00 Breakfast & Networking

09:00 Welcome & The Current State of the Food Industry

Val Braybrooks, University of Lincoln

Jake Norman, OAL

09:20 Introduction & the Future of Robotics

Andrea Paoli, University of Lincoln

09:40 Inter-sector Knowledge Transfer Opportunities

Jeff Nowill, Kuka Robotics

10:00 Demonstration & Pods

11:00 Coffee Break

11:30 The Potential Impact of Robotics & Automation on the Shopfloor

Ian Beauchamp, OAL

Mark Swainson, University of Lincoln

12:10 The APRIL Vision

Harry Norman, Managing Director, OAL

12:30 Lunch

13:30 1&1 Discussions & Tours of National Centre for Food Manufacturing


See APRIL the Robotic Chef at Food Event Holland

We are speaking about APRIL the robotic chef and the use of robotics in food manufacturing at the 2016 Digital Food Revolution event. 

The event will bring together manufacturers from all around the world to discuss how the digital revolution is affecting the food industry. 

When: 14th April 2016

Where: Den Bosch, Holland

OAL will be joined by Tetra Pak and Wageningen University to discuss how the food manufacturing supply chain can become more automated and efficient. Our APRIL robotic chef system offers a fully automated, flexible, modular manufacturing cell that aligns itself closely with the changing food landscape. Flexible, modular systems will enable food manufacturers to quickly respond to changing consumer tastes and demands for mass customization, an area existing systems fail to fulfil.

Our beautiful BMW i8 will also be making an appearance at the event, to showcase the knowledge transfer opportunities between food and car manufacturing. People will be able to jump in the car and see videos demonstrating how robots will change food manufacturing.

The i8 was seen at many events last year however this will be it’s first show outside of the UK!

APRIL will be officially launching in the UK on the Thursday 28th April 2016 at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, University of Lincoln. To register your interest, and be one of the first to see it operational, click here. 

Come and see us at the event by registering here

3 Ways Robot Chefs Will Improve Product Quality in Food Manufacturing

Bridging the gap between chef’s table and ready to eat meals is an ongoing challenge for food manufacturers. Retailers and consumers expectations for high quality/gourmet food products is ever increasing with product quality critical to business success.

Traditionally one route to emulating a chef is the use of highly labour intensive industrial-scale kitchens but these generate food safety and operational risks. Flexible automation and robotics manufacturing cells present new opportunities to close the gap and offer restaurant quality food on an industrial scale.

The APRIL robotic chef uses state of the art cooking and material handling technologies to process ingredients with real care. Robot chefs will emulate chefs in three key ways:

  1. Products are poured not pumped
  2. Precise batch cooking and process control

  3. Process flexibility

1)      Products are poured not pumped

In a chef’s kitchen there are no pumps or pipework for the food to be transferred through, yet typically in food manufacturing, product will pass through many pumps and pipes before it’s packaged. Pumps and pipes cause damage to product through abrasion on the pipe wall and the pumping action itself, particulates will disintegrate and quality will be lost. The APRIL robotic chef doesn’t have pipework or pumps and simply pours product for transfer to other vessels (saucepans) and fillers, just like a chef. For example, one of the most challenging to handle ingredients are whole raspberries, when passed through pumps and pipework they break down into pieces. When using a robotic chef we can keep the integrity of the raspberry whole.

2)      Process flexibility

Traditional manufacturing often faces the compromise between the desired process steps and equipment available. Desired recipes are amended to match the available cooking processes often to the products detriment. For a traditional cooking system with a steam jacket and homogeniser there is a high cost to adding new devices due to the engineering works required. Often vessels are one size fits all with limits on process flexibility.

Robotic chef systems by contrast enable the use of multiple processing devices that aren’t restricted to a specific vessel. The interoperability of the system (ability to interface with new devices) means it’s very easy to add new cooking technologies at a low cost, whilst increasing utilisation of devices by processing in parallel. For instance, a new device can be easily added to a manufacturing cell to produce more exotic products, a frothing device for manufacturing frothy soup.

3)      Precise batch cooking and process control

Automated robotic chef’s offer unparalleled cooking consistency stemming from the use of PLC automation and control. Without any human interaction a products desired cooking steps can be followed precisely offering more consistent flavours and colours. A relatively small batch size of 500kg means product is cooked evenly and quickly with advanced heating and mixing technologies like Steam Infusion, effectively eliminating over processing.

Robotics chefs are coming on stream now, make sure you enjoy the benefits. If you would like to learn more about APRIL sign up for our launch event on Thursday 28th April 2015 at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, Holbeach UK or if you would like to talk to someone please call one of the APRIL specialists at OAL.

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