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ing the question of where exactly to position the tips of those chopsticks for all those sushi variants and chopstick sizes. It’s all about the data. To enable robotics to properly perceive environments with such variations, lots of data is required. Take the sushi example, where computer vision algorithms can be designed to find the characteristics of a given piece, like a spicy tuna roll. But if we introduce a California roll, the algorithm fails. Vision engineers can come in and update the algorithm to identify the California roll—but then the introduction of another variant requires another development cycle for the robotics to perform. However, by using a data-driven machine learning approach, the data from a wide variety of sushi is used to train a machine learning model. In practice, when a new variety of sushi is introduced, there is a strong chance the system will recognize it—even if the robot has not seen it before. This concept of data-driven machine learning is applied across a wide variety of challenges. Consider an example outside of logistics, such as the security industry. Data scientists are using machine learning algorithms to help cameras identify certain objects as dangerous. The goal is to enable security cameras to handle more complex tasks previously reserved for humans, like recognizing people wearing masks or carrying weapons as potential threats, and then triggering an alarm.

the grasping of certain objects like tomatoes or eggs. In contrast to more rigid robotic tools, soft robotics offer adaptability and flexibility for accomplishing a dynamic array of tasks. Use of this more forgiving gripping technology has the potential to make the vision and sensing requirements less strict, as soft robotics do not require the same level of precision to grasp items. In practice, soft robotics shine when it comes to more amorphous substances that traditional gripping technology, like a clamp, struggle to handle. For example, corrugate cases and hard plastic totes have the strong structure and defined edges that rigid, mechanical tooling can handle effectively. On the other hand, soft robotics are adept at handling more malleable substances like dough, thanks to flexible characteristics that enable them to adapt to the contents in their grasp.

New Solutions to Longstanding Challenges As the full spectrum of robotics technology pushes forward, it offers tremendous potential for food distribution operations, chiefly by bringing the benefits of automation to tasks previously reserved for manual labor. Delivering this capability comes not from a single

innovation, but from combining several advances such as vision, onboard intelligence, gripping and allied components in a tightly integrated package. Market forces such as ever-changing packaging types and configurations, SKU proliferation and e-commerce continue to reshape the food logistics landscape. As these changes continue at an ever-increasing pace, robotic systems capable of adapting will enable end users to stay competitive.

As the full spectrum of robotics technology pushes forward,

it offers tremendous potential for food distribution operations.”

Translating Cool Technology to Real-World Results Everyone from massive conglomerates to the hottest new startups can bring a robot into a facility to perform a specific task. But that alone is no guarantee of success. Finding a solutions provider that pulls together robotics, logistics expertise and a complete solution set is rare. Food distribution operations must consider robotics as part of a holistic view that considers existing systems and overall processes. Considering this larger view is required to avoid developing an interesting robotic system that misses the mark with overall system requirements. Success starts with clearly outlining the individual automated processes and how these translate

The Right Tools Make the Job Easier Of course, the principle of choosing the right tool for the job holds true for even the smartest robots, as gripping mechanisms are a key enabler of increased capability. There is a reason the spoon was invented—chopsticks can’t do it all. Often, advances in tooling can make the perception and cognition job much simpler. Consider soft robotics grippers that use highly compliant materials like those found in living organisms to ease www.foodlogistics.com

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Profile for Supply+Demand Chain/Food Logistics

Food Logistics August 2018  

Food Logistics is the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food and beverage supply...

Food Logistics August 2018  

Food Logistics is the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food and beverage supply...