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State-of-the-art technology for smart factories

Omron at the 7th annual Food Sure Summit in Amsterdam

The event features the most recent developments in safety and quality processes in the F&B industry. Amidst an array of prominent keynote speakers Bruno Adam and Robert Brooks of Omron addressed attendees with an interactive presentation about the benefits of autonomous vehicles in food production.

AMSTERDAM (NL), 23-05-2017 - The historical building of Hotel Krasnapolsky in the picturesque centre of Amsterdam is the venue of 7th annual Food Sure Summit. The event features the most recent developments in safety and quality processes in the F&B industry. Amidst an array of prominent keynote speakers Bruno Adam and Robert Brooks of Omron addressed attendees with an interactive presentation about the benefits of autonomous vehicles in food production.

'Food & Beverage producers never have been closer to consumers', is the opening line of Robert Brooks. Omron's European Industry Marketing Manager F&B, draws from his 25 years of experience in closely monitoring the dynamics in which F&B manufacturers operate. 'To cater to the wishes of consumers manufacturers need to facilitate flexible and safe factories. Food quality, safety and sustainability are key drivers for consumers. Food safety breaches seriously affect brand reputation and recent numbers show that food recalls are still dramatically increasing. At Omron we are aiming for a smart factory to cope with these and productivity issues. Intelligent technologies that help producers deal with quality inspection, traceability through serialisation, productivity and reducing waste and resources. On the production side the stability of the workforce is a major concern. The automotive and pharmaceutical industries have found that advanced industrial automation and robotics can help solve these emerging issues. The F&B industry is just discovering the benefits of a so-called smart factory.'

Omron's Mobile Robot Business Director Europe Bruno Adam is keenly aware of how smart technology can solve such challenges. 'We enable our clients to innovate. Omron's Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles or AIV's help do just that. On-board lasers and other sensors allow our LD-robots to work autonomously in harmony with people in dynamic environments. Fleets up to 100 vehicles are controlled through our network Enterprise Manager and can dramatically improve productivity. LD-robots do not only allow employees to focus on tasks that require complex human skills, but also eliminate errors and improve traceability. F&B production is becoming more and more complex. Omron helps manufacturers to collect, interpret and act upon relevant factory data through advanced sensing and control technologies in combination with robotics. Quality variations can immediately be detected and often avoided with predictive or preventive maintenance. Our technology actively contributes to smart and safe F&B production.'

Q&A

Where will we be twenty years from now with regard to automation in F&B?

Robert Brooks: 'Omron assumes three stages, from the past to the future, in a relationship between humans and machines. The 1st stage is one of 'replacement' by machines of tasks that need not be done by humans. The 2nd stage is 'collaboration' between humans and machines, which is currently progressing. We are now just entering the relationship of the 3rd stage. A stage of 'harmony' between humans and machines, that extends human capabilities. As machines become a more integral part of society, humans will enjoy machine support in a number of new and different ways that will extend the potential of humans. It will take away stress, strains and make production completely traceable. On top of that it will reduce labor costs and improve output. Artificial intelligence will play an important role in this development.'

How safe is a production line when sensors get dirty or malfunction?

Bruno Adam: 'Omron's portfolio of products and components has been carefully made up of safe elements. That does not only mean that the products and components are safe to utilize, but we also build safety features into production lines to make sure that a defect in an individual part does not have major consequences. The system will notice a malfunction and give a warning or bring production to a stop, depending on the severity of the issue.'

Why does Omron's AIV, the LD-robot, look like a toy and not very industrial?

Bruno Adam: 'Omron's LD-robot is a collaborative robot. Our AIV works closely together with people in a manufacturing environment and assists humans. To work together there has to be a likeability factor in the interaction between humans and machines. We purposely made sure the LD-robot has a very friendly, non-threatening, look to it. We are convinced that this makes it easier for your employees to embrace the use of AIV's on the shop floor.'

We have AGV's at our factory. What is the difference between an AGV and AIV?

Bruno Adam: 'An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is a mobile robot that moves materials around a manufacturing facility and usually navigates by following markers or wires in the floor. An AIV or Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle, like Omron's LD Mobile robot, is more advanced. It does not depend on fixed markers or routes, but an AIV is able to operate in very dynamic environments and capable of planning alternate routes. This means our AIV's can safely operate alongside people. Furthermore, through our central Enterprise Manager our AIV's can work collaboratively in a fleet. Intelligent robots that can truly navigate autonomously by adapting to the environment and can be rapidly installed.'

What kind of clients does Omron work for and do you have a F&B robotics example with regard to food safety?

Bruno Adam: 'Many prominent global F&B manufacturers work with Omron in creating solutions based on our core technologies. They value the flexibility and innovative solutions Omron offers them. An example that well illustrates how robotics can benefit food safety is a recent implementation of a robotic solution that solved our clients' problem with occasional contamination of food samples. When this is done by employees the risk always exists that they carry some bacteria on their hands when the samples are taken. Nowadays our pick-and-place robot does the sampling and places the sample on a LD-robot. Our robots have been designed with hygiene in mind. The LD-AIV transports the sample to the lab for further inspection. The use of robotics makes this process much more reliable, faster and less prone to variations in hygiene.'

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