- The purpose of this research was to determine potential job
functions in the food systems industry for implementation with
robots. The research objectives included (1) to isolate job functions
in food systems that should be implemented with robots,
(2) to identify job functions that robot manufacturers believe
robots are technologically capable of performing in the food industry,
(3) to compare job functions that are most desired by food
systems with those that are technologically possible from robot
manufacturers and (4) to identify characteristics of professionals
who are evaluating job functions for robots in food systems.
Data collection was accomplished through the use of a survey
questionnaire. The survey, consisting of two parts, was mailed
nationwide to target populations in the food industry and robot
manufacturing. Part one of the survey consisted of sixty-four job
functions categorized into the major categories of receiving and
storage, sanitation, food production, food service, food distribution, related job functions, education and entertainment.
Part two of the survey consisted of ten demographic data questions,
involving age, job title, work experience, educational background,
sex and computer usage.
The sample population to receive the survey was divided into
three groups. These were (1) foodservice industries, including
hospitals, universities and primary/secondary schools, (2) food
processors and (3) robot manufacturers. Management personnel in
foodservice and food processing were asked to provide an assessment
of job functions feasible for robotics implementation. Robot manufacturers
received questionnaires to provide an assessment of robot
capabilities with regard to food industry needs. Each population
group was stratified, based on a predetermined cut-off point, to
include only large volume producers. Individual participants in
each population group were selected through a systematic sample with
a random start.
Of six hundred sixty-seven surveys mailed, forty-one percent
provided valid responses and were analyzed using frequencies and chi
square test of significance. Using a seventy-five percent or
greater yes response rate and significance greater than .05, sixteen
of the sixty-four job functions were identified for further analysis
with the demographic data. This identification process was used
to determine job functions which the food industry and robot manufacturers
did not disagree on feasibility for robotics implementation.
Looking at seventy-five percent or greater no responses where significance is greater than .05, only five of the sixty-four
job functions were identified as not feasible for robots at
this time. Analysis of demographic data with the sixteen identified
job functions resulted in no significant difference in
responses in relation to age, years of work experience, sex, computer
usage or level of education.
There were several conclusions to be drawn from this research.
First, the overall positive response to robots in the food industry
suggest further research with actual robotics implementation would
be indicated. It appears that robots aas reprogrammable, multifunctional
manipulators are not currently in use in the food industry.
Second, persons in the food industry need education on robots
and robotics applications in the form of workshops, continuing
education and academia for students. Robot manufacturers need to
be educated, through publications and personal contact, in all
areas of the food industry to enable the development of applications
to occur. Third, further research is needed to determine
appropriate job skills and training needed for food industry
employees replaced by robots.