Packaging Robots at Front of Economic Recovery


By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association

More than one RIA member has told me the packaging industry is an important early indicator for the economy, and that activity in this sector is looking good according to sources at DE-STA-CO and Adept Technology.

I was recently chatting with Ron Micallef of DE-STA-CO who has a feeling robots will at some point overtake dedicated automation for packaging applications. He explained that DE-STA-CO does a lot of business in end effectors and does quite well in applications such as bag handling.

Ron observed that one of the driving forces for packaging is a growing emphasis on mixed lots for food products. Another is the emphasis on safety and cleanliness, both of which tend to be highly regulated. These thoughts were with me after Ron’s lunch visit, and the case for robots in the food and packaging sectors crystalized even more when I switched on Adept’s fourth quarter report back at the office. 

“There is a tremendous amount of pressure now on food manufacturers to be able to have a lot of flexibility in their packaging,” said Adept Technology President and CEO, John Dulchinos. “And to do that, they are kind of forced into the scenario where they either have to do it by hand or the only alternative to that is robots.”

He went on to say that the packaging business “. . . continues to be our strongest market as we are seeing continued demand for automated packaging solutions from the food handling and pharmaceutical industries, particularly in France. The recent global pandemic is a reminder of the importance of sanitary food handling and food manufacturers are intent on finding ways to protect their consumers, and ultimately their businesses.”

Companies around the world have been affected by continued weakness in the global economy, but many observers, including RIA, feel there is reason to believe the bottom has been reached. Robots merit serious consideration as businesses look to satisfy pent up demand for capital equipment that is affordable, reliable and flexible.

At the same time robots can fulfill a company’s need for better automation, they also help domestic manufacturers cope more effectively with federal mandates and regulations.

“If you look at specific products and markets, like pharmaceutical products, food products, the financial equation or the regulatory environment doesn’t justify moving those to less regulated markets or far-away markets,” said Dulchinos. “And so I don’t see a day where food will all come from China. I think food factories are going to China to service the China market but it doesn’t make sense to produce a Twinkie in China and ship it all the way to the U.S. The equation doesn’t make sense. So there will always be a strong need for equipment here.”

Whether it is end effectors or whole robot systems, RIA members like DE-STA-CO and Adept are enabling more customers to take advantage of affordable robotic automation as a way to combat the pressure of tight budgets and consumer demand for variety at a low price. It is no surprise that these RIA companies are leaders in the industry and should be at the top of any list for business partnerships. To find companies that fit your needs and are seriously committed to robotics, visit Robotics Online at www.robotics.org.

Editor’s note: Quotes and references to Adept Technology taken from material published by Seeking Alpha in, “Adept Technology, Inc. F4Q09 (Qtr End 06/30/09) Earnings Call Transcript.” Attributions to Ron Micalleff of DE-STA-CO based on one-on-one discussions with him.

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