Find out how the use of robotic solutions can help streamline primary and secondary packaging processes in the confectionery industry.

To remain competitive, confectionery manufacturers need to be able to cater to the fast-changing demands of consumers. As innovation cycles in the industry become shorter, consumer preferences change even more rapidly and that can pose challenges for confectioners: They need to be able to satisfy the need for increased flexibility, while ensuring this does not compromise the efficiency of their production or the quality of the product.  

For many confectioners, the solution is to increase the levels of automation within the production process. Primary and secondary packaging processes especially, can become more flexible, efficient and safe, when robots are integrated into production lines. 

A growing trend  

So, it should not come as a surprise, that so many confectionery manufacturers are right on trend if they opt for robotic solutions. Market figures show that pick-and-place robots have become a key automation solution right across the food industry. They are the fastest-growing robotics segment with a 40% market share equalling a total market value of 700 million euros. Indeed, a report from market analyst, Grand View Research, predicts that the market for pick-and-place robots will triple within the next 10 years, as more and more manufacturers turn to automated solutions to gain a competitive edge in the price-sensitive confectionery industry.  

Given their agility and high reliability, robots are able to address frequent product changes and can handle different products with ease. To perform a product or format change in the packaging line, it is often already sufficient to change the end-of-arm (EoA) tool of the robot. This means that varying products in different formats can be packaged on one line without long downtimes. Robots with the right EoA tool can handle even delicate products such as cookies, bars, or baked goods during primary and secondary packaging processes.  

When assembling assortments or variety packs, robots keep up with efficiency as well – as Syntegon’s newly developed robotic pick-and-place platform RPP or its Sigpack TTMD topload cartoner – can demonstrate. Aided by integrated camera based vision systems, the robots’ software identifies different, randomly oriented products arriving from multiple infeed belts. Next, the robots pick-and-place the products securely into boxes or trays, according to the specifications set by the confectionery manufacture. Products can be packed either in a flat or upright or in both positions creating more pack style variety at the point of sale. Having this flexibility is key to act fast on new trends and stay ahead of the competition.  

Thanks to the addition of vision systems, robots are also able to help increase product quality because they are able to detect defective products during ongoing production and eject them from the line before they can make their way to the consumer.  

Robotic solutions, such as Syntegon’s RPP platform, can help address the need for more efficiency, safety and flexibility

Robots can also increase quality during production by reducing the risk of contamination. Once packaging processes have been programmed, integrated robots can perform the task reliably without the need for any human interference, reducing the number of contacts between production personnel and product. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, manufacturers have doubled down on their efforts to ensure both a safe production environment as well as a save product – by relying more on robotic solutions.  

The factory of the future 

We must expect to see production lines becoming increasingly automated in the future. However, no matter how much the level of automation will rise, the interplay between machine and personnel will continue to be a key factor for success. To remain ahead of the competition in such a competitive industry sector, it will be key for confectionery manufacturers to recognise the right opportunities for robotic integration and this can be achieved best by having a partner by their side who understands the requirements of the confectionery industry and has a great deal of robotic expertise under their belt, to help realise the full potential of robotic technology.  

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Editor: Kiran Grewal