Only 25% of the respondents indicated an increased budget dedicated for automation – but not extravagant in terms of dollars.
In other places we find anecdotal evidence of a still-flat economy, leading to speculation about merger and acquisition activity and cost-cutting. Organic sales growth is difficult to come by. In general, big thinking and big ideas are coming from smaller players in the food industry. The largest corporations are, as always, risk averse and cautious about spending and speculating on new trends and new technologies.
What's going on is being played out in the brewery marketplace; entrepreneurial craft brewers assume the start-up costs and risks associated with brand and market development, and once shown to be desirable, a large corporation swoops in and buys them up. These same economies of scale are playing out in the alternative energy marketplace as solar and wind power become more economically viable. Technology in both industries is researched, tested, and adopted at the entrepreneurial level before being green lighted at large corporations.
So. What does it all mean?
The numbers stack up. Automation, in food processing at this point is the exception, rather than the rule. However, our experience with all industries shows a timid approach - initially. Entry into automating process systems is normally done on a relatively small scale. Our principle companies tell us that their engagement with clients usually begins with one engineer wanting to track one piece of equipment. If this beta test is successful then some expansion is normally seen within the same management group. Ultimately, when the technology becomes noticed on the bottom line, corporate initiatives provoke a much more rapid expansion and a cascading effect ensues.
Fortunately, adopting automation isn't an all or nothing proposition. Selective deployment can be done without systemic disruption. Often unseen crossover benefits emerge. Installing an environmental tracking system can reduce regulatory compliance costs as well as monitor equipment efficiencies. Robotics can improve productivity as well as reducing costs associated with stress injuries from repetitive motion heavy lifting. At the end of the day, there's not a mad rush to automation, but the industry is slowly ascending toward it – let us show you how.