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 SKUs 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 SKUs 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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InsightDeborah Stokoe