Engineers in Peterborough look to robots to cut costs of food production

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A Peterborough company is at the forefront of the battle to cut production costs for the food industry.

Engineering solutions supplier OAL, in Southgate Way, Orton Southgate, is heading up a £1 million project to develop robotics to carry out the weighing and preparation of raw materials.

Jake Norman, head of innovation at OAL.

Jake Norman, head of innovation at OAL.

At the moment much of the work is done by hand and it is estimated this costs five per cent of each manufacturer’s annual turnover.

OAL is leading the project with Lincoln University’s food manufacturing centre, which will use OAL’s APRIL robotics systems, and condiments producer English Provender Company (EPC).

Jake Norman, head of innovation at OAL, said: “Weighing out powders is a common task across the industry that presents accuracy and health and safety challenges when undertaken by people.

“By using a robot and smart algorithms from the University of Lincoln, we can quickly weigh out powders, to a recipe, to an accuracy of 1g with zero cross contamination.”

Mark Swainson, deputy head of food manufacturing centre, said: “The industry needs a step change. This project is not about marginal gains, it is about identifying a game-changer that can turbocharge productivity in food manufacturing processes.”

Andy Riches, group operations projects director, said: “The ability to accurately and efficiently prepare, weigh and batch the complex combination of ingredients really is the engine room of our production environments.”

The project has been part-funded by a government grant of about £900,000 from Innovate UK.


Peterborough firm to create robotics hub to transform food production