IMPROVING FOOD SAFETY IN THE PET FOOD INDUSTRY

Pet food is an industry that has changed enormously in recent years. Cats and dogs are now fully fledged members of the family, and people have rightfully increased their expectations when it comes to what they feed their pets. Kibble is a challenging product to manufacture since it has several steps to production, varied recipes and is often packaged in paper bags that come with their set of issues.

Potential issues in pet food manufacturing

Foreign objects
Pet food production involves a lot of different touchpoints during manufacturing. Since different cuts of meat are used, pieces of bone can end up mixed in with the final product. While rarer, pieces of machines like bolts can break off during the manufacturing process. 

Pathogens
Since the various recipes are moved around on conveyor belts and through machines at varying temperatures, the potential for pathogens such as salmonella and other bacteria is high. These can be extremely dangerous to common pets. 

Food recalls
These two issues combined can lead to complete recalls on entire recipes or product categories. As we mentioned earlier, the pet food industry has greatly evolved over the years and now operates under standards very similar to human-grade food products. 

Answering These Challenges With Robotics 

As the pet food industry evolved, they’ve found automatic bagging machines and robotic palletizers to be extremely efficient to their newfound problems.

Automatic bagging machines are equipped with filters that ensure that only the final product is filled into the bags and nothing else. These machines also happen to be very easy to clean to very exacting standards, especially if they’re made out of stainless steel. Combined with robotic palletizers, the production process of pet food is much faster, reducing the chances of contact with dangerous airborne pathogens. 

Another advantage of automating bagging and transport of products is product traceability. In the event of a recall or any type of issue, you’ll know exactly which machine it came from, making the recall, and the fix, a much simpler operation.
 

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Selecting the right end of arm tooling

Opting for a robotic palletizer is only the first step, selecting the end of arm tooling it uses to handle your products is perhaps even more important than having the machine itself. Additionally, you might end up having different needs for the palletizer that unloads the base components of the recipe versus the palletizer that moves finished bags of pet food onto the pallets for transport. 

For example, depalletizing grains and flours might opt for a vacuum gripper because they’re budget-friendly. However, if you’re unsure of the overall strength of the bags being used, a finger gripper might be a better option. Some finger grippers even opt for polyurethane covers on the ends of the tool to ensure no bag gets ripped or damaged. 

Your end-of-production line palletizer might need completely different tooling. A finger gripper is a versatile option that can work both at the depalletizing stage and the end of the line, but many pet food facilities opt to box up their bags to provide additional safety during transport. In that situation, a robotic case palletizer will be necessary.

For the pets’ safety

As the pet food industry grew, so did the volumes, the scale of the operations, and the dangers too. Food safety is a tricky problem for any industry, but it can have such dramatic ramifications that you have no choice but to treat it as a daily commitment. Opting for robotic palletizing in pet food production is no longer just to improve efficiency and to prevent accidents in your facilities, you’re protecting your clients’ families.