Airgrip modular gripper for bottle handling. Picture: Supplied/Yaskawa Nordic
Airgrip modular gripper for bottle handling. Picture: Supplied/Yaskawa Nordic

How robots are revolutionising South African sectors

By Yasmine Jacobs Time of article published Sep 3, 2020

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Cape Town - The South African food manufacturing sector has embraced pick and place robots to aid production.

For years, manufacturing processes consisted of a line of workers being responsible for all the material-handling functions.

There were also detrimental effects to the workers’ health as many employees were subjected to conditions that sometimes resulted in serious illness, injury and even death.

These new “pick and place” robots allowed for more speed and consistency, while also being customisable to meet production requirements.

The automotive and pharmaceutical industries have been using robotics for a while and are already deeply invested in the use of industrial robots, but now the South African food manufacturing sector have made use of it.

“Speaking specifically about the KwaZulu-Natal region, we’ve seen an increase in the implementation of pick and place robots in food manufacturing, especially in the big bakeries,” said Yaskawa Southern Africa’s Durban Branch Manager, Rudi von Fintel.

“The bakeries produce over 8,000 loaves of bread an hour, 24 hours a day, so speed and consistency are absolutely vital to their operations. In terms of application, the robots are responsible for taking the bread out of hot ovens and placing them onto the conveyor belts.”

Taking into account the sheer amount of loaves in production and the temperature of the loaves, it would be physically impossible to do the work without the assistance of robots. This reveals one of the biggest benefits of pick and place robots as they do the work that would prove too much for human workers.

“Palletising in the beverages industry is another area where we’ve seen a massive uptake,” von Fintel explains. “Due to the different sizes of bottles, cans or cartons, it is important to have robots that are easily adaptable to the products coming down the line. And since the volumes are so high, the robots are instrumental at the end of the production line.”

Beverage company, Bavaria Brewery now manages to palletise 100 000 beer cans per hour as the business decided to revolutionise its picking, packing and palletising processes.

While many businesses might be concerned about robots taking up additional floor space or being too bulky to operate, the opposite is true.

In fact, pick and place robots are capable of operating in the tightest spaces with minimal hassle. Since robots support a wide variety of communication protocols as well as digital signals, they are easily integrated into existing automation or production lines.


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