Global sales of industrial robots, valued at $20.7bn in 2022, comprising 33% of the total robotics market, are being propelled by the digitisation of production processes.

A key development of digitisation in food and beverage manufacturing is the increased use and capability of “Collaborative Robots” (Cobots). These machines are designed to work alongside humans within a shared space.

Against this backdrop, GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company forecasts that the global industrial robots market is set to grow at a CAGR of 10% between 2022 and 2030 to reach $45.1bn in 2030.

Assisted by AI, Cobots are extremely versatile in comparison to traditional manufacturing robotic solutions. One example is the palletisation process where a Cobot can stack boxes directly from the production line onto a pallet ready for being moved by a human but with advanced sensor technology to prevent contact with anyone in the production hall.

GlobalData packaging consultant consumer custom solutions George Higgins commented: “Cobots offer companies more capability and control in the manufacturing process with less downtime and a reduced reliance on human intervention.

“This leads to greater productivity and the opportunity to grow market share with packaging innovation produced on more efficient production lines at a lower cost.”

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Cobot innovation in production processes

Cobots are being integrated into the production processes of key packaging manufacturers such as packaging giants Tetra Pak and specialists Sealed Air.

Tetra Pak is developing machinery to work in tandem with their own packaging systems. This not only simplifies the integration of Cobots in the manufacturing process but also adds value to the packaging applications they provide for the food and beverage industry.

Sealed Air is working in partnership with San Francisco-based electronics firm OSARO to explore the new production capabilities offered by automated Cobot solutions.

The rise of RaaS and AaaS in supporting Cobot sales

The increased use of Robotics and AI applications in the production process has given rise to two new AI services: Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) – where robotics companies offer a subscription model for customers to use their robot devices – and Automation-as-a-Service (AaaS) – where companies offer their customers on-demand tailored automation services to optimise manufacturers operations.

Higgins concludes: “Savvy packaging companies have an investment opportunity to create a fully integrated packaging solution for their clients. As a result, we are also likely to see more M&A activity in the space.

“Companies that can upskill existing staff to learn how to use the software that controls robot automation will become leaders in the industry.”