January/February 2020 - 9
a vision system and it could learn
the differences. Slowly, it builds up
a database, " Brookshire said. " It's not
exactly what a good one looks like,
but what the characteristics are of a
good one and what the characteristics
are of a bad one. You could put a fruit
in front of it, and it would determine,
based on what it knows right now,
that's a bad one.
" That's really no different than a
human. If I'm a new person on the line,
I probably won't be able to detect as
many bad ones as someone who has
been doing it for five years. "
Brookshire said such technology
could be available to producers in the
next five years.
" We'll be able to do it in some
scope, " he said. " Will it be perfect?
No, but we'll be able to start doing
it. It might not be in the masses at
that point; but in 10 years, it probably
will be. "
With any new technology, companies
are reluctant to depend on it until it's
been proven to work in a real production
environment. During an interactive
forum at PACK EXPO, titled " Robotics:
Identifying Applications and Justifying
the Investments, " some show attendees
were openly skeptical of computerized
vision defect detection, even for readyto-ship
packaged products, much less
" Robotics hasn't caught up to detecting
end-of-line defects the way people
can, " said one attendee, who added
he's avoided replacing human packers
with automation for that reason. " If I
need someone to inspect the product,
I may as well have them box it too. "
Brookshire said automation in food
production will likely occur in small
measures, perhaps one trial production
line for larger producers.
" It depends on the company. Some
of the big ones are very quick to take
this kind of thing on, " he said. " For
the small ones, they might look at
it as a way to compete and get their
" Once it's proven and factories see
other factories doing it, they'll say, 'We
have to do that.' "
Ultimately, there is going to be
trial and error with robotics in food
it's the same thing that
happened with the automobile industry
30 to 40 years ago, " Brookshire said.
" We tried to do everything with robots,
and we couldn't.
" You have to learn which things you
can do well with robots and which
you can't. "
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