Robots for quality control: The secret ingredient for food industry success

Robot Tech


Robots for quality control: The secret ingredient for food industry success

Catherine Bernier
Content Manager
Content for Cobot

Explore the fascinating world where technology meets taste and see how robots are elevating standards for quality in the food and beverage industry.

As manufacturing industries grapple with increasing demands for efficiency, consistency, and safety, robots emerge as pivotal tools in meeting these challenges. Their ability to enhance precision, reliability, and speed in quality control is reshaping how manufacturers approach production and quality assurance.

This article covers the multifaceted role of robotics in quality control, exploring their types, advantages, limitations, and the current market. It provides an understanding of how automation impacts quality control in food and beverage manufacturing, enabling companies to make informed decisions to improve their production processes.

How are robots used for quality control in the food and beverage industry?

food and beverage robots holding bottles


Robotics has become a cornerstone in the realm of quality control within the food and beverage industry. These automated systems are not only directly involved in the inspection and handling of products but also play an integral role in various indirect quality control processes. 

Direct methods

Automated inspection systems

Equipped with high-resolution cameras and advanced sensors, robots conduct meticulous inspections of products. They can detect defects, contamination, and inconsistencies in texture, size, or color, ensuring each product meets quality standards.

Robotics in process control

Robots are instrumental in controlling critical production parameters like temperature, mixing speeds, and cooking times, thus guaranteeing consistent product quality.

Packaging and labeling inspection

Robots ensure the integrity and accuracy of packaging and labeling, checking for proper seals, correct labels, and expiration dates to maintain product safety and compliance.

Precise product handling

Robotic arms are used for the delicate handling of food products, minimizing human contact and thus reducing contamination risks. Their precision is particularly beneficial for fragile items.

Automated sampling for testing

Robotics systems are employed to take standardized samples at various stages of production, which are then tested for quality parameters like microbial content, pH levels, and more.

Indirect methods

Data analytics and predictive maintenance

By analyzing production data, robotics integrated with AI can predict potential quality issues, optimizing production processes for better quality outcomes.

Supply chain monitoring

Robotics plays a role in ensuring the quality of raw materials, with systems designed to track and monitor conditions like temperature and humidity during storage and transport.

Environmental monitoring

Robots continuously monitor and control the production environment, adjusting factors like temperature and humidity to maintain optimal conditions for food safety.

Incorporating these direct and indirect methods, robotics significantly uplifts the standard and consistency of quality control in the food and beverage industry. This multifaceted approach not only directly affects product handling and inspection but also indirectly influences the overall manufacturing environment, leading to a more efficient, safe, and compliant production process.

What types of robots are used?

canned food robot handling


The application of robotics in quality control within the food and beverage industry involves various types of robots, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses.

Articulated robots

Articulated (or six-axis) robots offer exceptional flexibility and range of motion, making them ideal for complex tasks like assembling, packaging, or handling irregularly shaped items.

However, their size and complexity can lead to higher up-front costs and maintenance requirements. They might also require more space due to their range of motion.

SCARA robots

SCARA robots are known for their high speed and precision, particularly in linear movements. They are excellent for tasks like sorting, assembly, and high-speed pick-and-place operations.

On the downside, they have limited reach compared to articulated robots and are less versatile in handling complex tasks that require a wide range of motion.

Collaborative robots (Cobots)

Cobots are designed to safely work alongside humans, making them ideal for tasks that require human-robot collaboration. They are relatively easy to program and reconfigure for different tasks.

They generally have lower payload capacities, smaller reach, and slower operational speeds than more traditional articulated robots.

Delta robots

Delta robots are incredibly fast and accurate, perfect for high-speed picking, sorting, and packaging tasks. Their overhead mounting saves floor space and allows for a large work envelope.

Delta robots, however, are typically limited to lighter payloads and may not be suitable for tasks requiring significant force or heavy lifting.

Purpose-built automation systems (fillers, cappers, labelers)

These systems are highly specialized, offering great efficiency and consistency for specific tasks like filling bottles, capping containers, or applying labels.

Their specialization means they lack flexibility. They are typically designed for specific product types and sizes, making them less adaptable to changes in product lines or packaging designs.

Each type of robot plays a critical role in enhancing quality control in the food and beverage industry. Various models provide streamlined, efficient, and quality-focused production processes for specific tasks. The choice of robot often depends on the specific requirements of the task at hand, balancing factors like speed, precision, flexibility, and cost.

What are the advantages?

beverage industrial robot automation


The integration of robotics in quality control offers several advantages.

Increased accuracy and consistency

Robots provide unparalleled precision, reducing human error in quality inspections. Many food and beverage applications require precision for tasks like:

  • Cutting
  • Trimming
  • Filling

Robots can handle such tasks with unmatched precision. This leads to increased quality control outcomes over manual methods.

Enhanced productivity

Automated systems can operate continuously, increasing throughput and efficiency. Manufacturers leveraging robots benefit on both ends of what was traditionally considered a trade-off: throughput vs. quality.

Improved safety

Robots can perform tasks in hazardous conditions, reducing the risk to human workers. Some food and beverage applications take place within extreme temperatures. Robots can be configured to operate in these environments where workers may be at risk of injury.

Data collection and analysis

Robotic systems can gather and analyze data to inform continuous improvement in manufacturing processes. This leads to long-term improvements to the outcomes as robotic systems reveal areas that are prone to errors.

What are the limitations?

Despite their advantages, there are limitations to consider.

High initial investment

The cost of robotic systems can be significant, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. This can be a barrier or blocker for some manufacturers. A strong ROI analysis should be conducted to make an informed decision on the value of any potential automation project.

Technical expertise required

Implementing and maintaining robotic systems often requires skilled personnel. Many manufacturers do not have skilled robot programmers on staff prior to their first automation project. Personnel will need to be hired or trained. Some manufacturers leverage third-party experts to handle issues with their robots when they arise.

Limited flexibility

Some robots are designed for specific tasks and may not adapt easily to changes in production. It is important to understand the stability and reliability of certain product types and the flexibility of your proposed system before moving forward with an automation project. Some robot types will be more flexible than others.

How big is the market?

quality control food beverage camera


The market for robotics in the food and beverage sector is not just growing; it is accelerating at a remarkable pace. In 2020, the food robotics market was valued at $2 billion USD. However, it is projected to surge to $5.8 billion by 2031, demonstrating a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.4% from 2022 to 2031. This significant growth trajectory can be attributed to several key factors.

Technological advancements

Innovations in robotics, AI, and machine learning are continuously improving the capabilities of robots and their supplemental systems, making them more accessible and efficient. These advancements are enabling more precise and varied applications in the food and beverage industry, from basic packaging tasks to more complex food handling and processing.

Rising demand for efficiency and consistency

As consumer expectations for quality and safety in food products increase, manufacturers are investing in robotics to meet these demands. Robots provide a level of consistency and precision in quality control that is challenging to achieve through manual processes.

Labor shortages and rising costs

The food and beverage industry, like many others, is experiencing labor shortages and rising wages. Robotics offers a solution to these challenges by automating repetitive and labor-intensive tasks, leading to long-term cost savings and operational efficiencies.

Regulatory compliance and food safety

Strict food safety regulations and the need for compliance are driving the adoption of robotics. Automated systems help maintain hygiene standards, reducing the risk of contamination, and ensuring traceability throughout the production process.

Flexibility and scalability

As the market evolves, manufacturers seek flexible and scalable solutions to adapt to changing consumer trends and product lines. Robots offer this adaptability, making them a valuable long-term investment.

The projected growth of the food robotics market reflects not only the increasing sophistication of the technology but also a broader industry trend toward automation and digital transformation. As manufacturers seek to improve efficiency, product quality, and safety, while also addressing labor challenges and regulatory demands, robotics emerges as an increasingly essential component of modern food and beverage production facilities.

What’s next?

You may be ready to take the next step toward improving your food and beverage quality control processes, but where do you start?

The HowToRobot platform connects buyers of automation with a variety of suppliers in a streamlined, easy-to-use environment.

Post your project on HowToRobot today for free, and begin receiving offers from vetted, and relevant automation vendors from our supplier network.