The Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry has changed significantly over the past decade. Consumer preferences have changed and so has the pattern of supply and demand chain. Since the adoption of automation in the industry, the FMCG industry has experienced a digital revolution.
In a country like India, fast moving consumer goods are major contributors to the economy. according to Statista Research Division, FMCG sector represents the fourth largest sector in the Indian economy. The consumer goods market in India is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14.9% to reach US$220 billion by 2025, from US$110 billion in 2020.
A number of large companies have adopted automation such as P&G, Coca-Cola, Hindustan Unilever and many more. Robots have gained wide acceptance across industries, particularly in consumer goods manufacturing processes ranging from packaging, mixing, part picking, pallets, and quality inspection. In fact, robots do an amazing job.
Automating the entire production line is an expensive process that only large companies can afford. However, with the advancement of technology, collaborative robots or bots are being introduced to the factory floor. Unlike industrial robots, robots are economical, space-saving, safe to use in human environments and do not require fencing or cages to ensure worker safety (when assessing risks). These easy-to-use bots offer partial automation in manufacturing processes, an affordable option for small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, deploying cobots does not require major infrastructure changes.
In the past few years, the automation industry has seen a boom in cobot deployment all over the world. The manufacturing industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, disrupting the supply chain. These companies have been under great pressure to improve and improve their business operations to meet production requirements as well as to remain competitive in the market. The adoption of robotics and automation across the industry has helped manufacturers ensure business resilience in this sector.
Manufacturers in the FMCG industry face various challenges such as reduced work efficiency due to mundane and repetitive tasks in activities such as packaging, pallets, logistics, warehousing, weight lifting and many more. The application of robotics and automation has made these tasks very easy and efficient. In the FMCG sector, applications for robotics and automation include:
- Packaging and pallet
These operations include some of the least relaxing tasks in the supply chain, accounting for a large number of recurring strains and musculoskeletal disorders among workers. Lifting heavy loads and bending to pick up or roll cargo are not only uncomfortable tasks that risk injury, they are also repetitive, which can lead to human error with reduced attention spans.
Programmed to work on repetitive tasks to relieve workers from performing normal and boring tasks, bots increase the rate of production on the factory floor. The application of the cubot reduces worker fatigue leaving them free to work on higher value tasks.
In the past few years, robotics in warehousing and logistics have seen an exponential increase in adoption. Because pods are lightweight and flexible, they ensure that goods are moved at a consistent or faster pace. In addition, no major changes to the infrastructure are required in order to automate the manufacturing unit.
Cobots relieve the stress of heavy tasks on workers and also help increase production. Automation lowered the cost of production and increased efficiency among workers.
Keeping an inventory check is a rigorous process, especially in the case of retailers where maintaining inventory is essential. Inventory has become more transparent as a result of automation, and the possibility of last minute supply interruptions has been avoided. Distributors and retailers can get real-time stock numbers of specific items, which further helps them make better decisions.
Cobots are now equipped with sensors to allow manufacturers to scan inventory and determine how much space is needed to store merchandise. This creates a more efficient space and eliminates the risk of breakage or wastage. Leveraging cobots’ consistent accuracy and capabilities, manufacturers are relying on cobots more than ever before.
In the consumer goods industry, technology has served as a boon to industries where maintaining quality and controlling ingredients is paramount. Human employees tend to lose focus due to repetitive actions after a long period of time, resulting in an increased prevalence of human errors. In this case, cobots take on the engineering difficult tasks and relieve human employees from working on better tasks. Along with increased efficiency and productivity, reduced human error has resulted in reduced product and material waste.
The FMCG sector is highly dependent on seasonal demand, with constant changes in consumer tastes and environments. Conventional industrial robots are often designed to perform a specific task and require robotics experts for any software changes. Whereas cobots are flexible and can be redeployed to perform a variety of tasks without the need for professional engineers.
Robotics and automation have reached new heights, defying barriers caused by the global pandemic and escalating conflicts. The labor-intensive nature of the FMCG sector provides new options for the adoption of advanced technology. In this case, the perfect collaboration between man and machine, cobots, was a game changer in this growing industry. With automation and robotics potentially opening opportunities for commercial growth and monitoring of sustainability and operational efficiency, the future of the FMCG sector is in motion.
(The author is Mr. Sougandh KM, Country Director for India, Universal Robots and the opinions expressed in this article are his own)
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