Please tell us a little bit about the company and why you are at the show today?
I am Jake Norman, the innovation manager at OAL (Olympus Automation Ltd.). We are here at the show to demonstrate our new robotic technologies transforming the food manufacturing industry. The robot we’re demoing live here today is our latest innovation, the APRIL Robotics Weighing System.
Traditionally factories employ someone whose job is primarily to weigh out powders manually with a scoop. We can now do that using robots offering food manufacturers a flexible and scalable solution that delivers a safer, more accurate and cost-effective alternative to operators on the factory floor.
It’s one of a number of innovations that we've developed over the company’s 25 years to automate food manufacturing; to increase productivity, food safety and traceability and above all improve how our food is made.
OAL is split into three key areas. One of them is our OAL Connected system which focuses on label and date code verification, making sure that manufacturers put the product in the right packaging and with the right date code printed on it prior to the products leaving the factory. We’re currently protecting over 1,200 packaging lines in the UK and overseas from product recalls caused by label and date code errors.
We’ve recently introduced our APRIL Eye module to the OAL Connected package which is next generation date code verification. APRIL Eye uses artificial intelligence to read and check date codes, just like a human, but with more accuracy and consistency and with the traceability food manufacturers need.
We also have our projects team who provide food manufacturers with much more traditional dry and liquid material handling and processing solutions. Currently, over 20 million loaves of bread a week are produced using our systems.
Finally, as discussed earlier, we also have our APRIL Robotics division which is committed to providing the next generation food manufacturing preparation and processing systems using robotic and automation technologies.
What do you think makes you unique in the marketplace?
We're the only company in the world using robots at the front end of food processing to handle and process ingredients. OAL is committed to transforming the food manufacturing industry and our desire to do so is supported by forward-thinking companies across the globe and the UK government, which has funded projects valued at £4.5 million.
What are you hoping to get out of the conference this year?
So we're looking for food manufacturers that are looking to automate their ingredient handling and processing plants to increase efficiency and productivity. The demand is being driven mainly by rising labour costs, and of course, the health and safety challenges associated with exposure to powders. Removing the person from the process and replacing them with a robot not only removes these risks but also assures the manufacturer of a safe, accurate and cost-effective ingredient handling process.