How Are Robot Manufacturers Conquering “Dirty Dozen” One By One?

Do you know what the term “Dirty Dozen” means in the food industry?

Dirty Dozen sounds more like a movie title, but it’s not. In the food industry, it refers to unpleasant hygienic practices. In robotics, there are three ‘Ds’ – dull, dirty and dangerous.

And these three Ds are usually the spoilers for food processing plants. This work can be uncomfortable and tiresome. The job can be downright uninviting in extreme cases and is not for someone with a weak heart and stomach.


Food processing employees in a meat processing plant.

Manual Food Processing
Food processing done in the traditional way is not a pleasant working environment for anyone. According to Mark V. Ewing VP – Sales and Marketing of JLS Automation in Pennsylvania, they are installing their automation systems mostly in areas where the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Under these conditions, sanitizing processes can be a challenge.

Traditional way of processing food lacks strict sanitation procedures.

Traditional way of processing food lacks strict sanitation procedures.

Importance of Sanitation
In the frozen meat processing industry, sanitation is very important. If the working environment is not sanitized and cleaned by the people working in the area, food processing may be contaminated with germs and bacteria. This could pose serious problems to the quality of the food being processed.

Robot Labor
In contrast, robots employed in the food processing industry are excellent in performing repeated and quick work without disruption or hesitation. They don’t have to be reminded about the sanitation procedures and processes.

Automation in the food processing industry is gaining ground and popularity and it is projected to be growing.

Shifting to Automation
Food processing companies have started to integrate robots and automation into their processing plants. Robots with sophisticated vision capabilities and fully-functional end-of-arm tooling are assigned speed-specific tasks on the production floor. A delta-style robot, for example is tasked with handling the picking and placement of frozen foods for packaging.

The introduction of robotics boosts productivity

The introduction of robotics boosts productivity

Cost-effective and Speedy Robot Work
More robots are seeing spots on the production floor. And this is because the cost of this technology is consistently coming down. Hence, even small food producers can afford one or two robots in their operation.

Most food producers are investing in automated packaging and food processing for low cost, speed, work precision and hygienic quality provided by robot work.

Affordable Automation Technologies
While some food producers still utilize human labor for such kind of jobs, cost-effective robotic technologies and the scarcity of human labor help boost automation in the food and packaging industries. New bag machines for food plastic bags and packaging materials are continuously evolving and improving in terms of automated features.

Robot Sanitary Standard
With the increasing demand for robots in the food industry, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) initiated the drafting of a new robot sanitary standard to match the provisions of the strict 3-A sanitary standard covering dairy and meat processing. Details of this 3-A sanitary standard may be referred to the RIA Standards Development Director, Pat Davison.

This standard should guide food producers in the proper implementation of robotic automation in their processing floor.

With robots in food processing plants, is there room for the Dirty Dozen?

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Sean Thomas

Is a former sports blogger who has interest in marketing and entrepreneurship. When he’s not studying the paths of successful startups, he enjoys hiking with his dogs and spending time with his wife.

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Sanitization when you’re processing food as well as drinks is a serious topic. I know this from watching the TV show, Bar Rescue. The team of rescuers often deals with these types of problems when they set about turning around a failing venue. Nobody wants to eat contaminated food.


The drastic expansion of industrial animal production in the US has been accompanied by the rapid consolidation of the meat industry. I find it incredible and disconcerting that this industry is now dominated by a handful of huge corporations that process most of the country’s meat at enormous facilities, and consolidation continues to increase. The difficult challenges to maintain healthy conditions and standards is definitely an important one that must be met.


I would feel more at ease knowing that food processing plants adhere to a high standard of safety and cleanliness. I heard a statistic on some food show that indicated that the average consumer of canned tuna can expect to eat the equivalent of six cockroaches per year due to the minimal invasiveness of this insect in tuna canning plants. I eat tuna and that didn’t sit well with me.


I read that about 20 robot manufacturing companies pooled together to demonstrate a completely robotic automated meat processing system at an exhibit for food manufacturing. I suppose it’s accurate to say that robotics is about to become a part of the arsenal that food processing companies have at their disposal. This technology holds out the promise of reducing costs and that is enticing for any company leadership.


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