Fast Moving Consumer Goods

Why the FMCG industry must automate further to survive

As market demands continue to change, so must the supply chain. In fact, today’s factory floor is vitally different to the one of even twenty years ago, with high-speed conveyors, cobot arms and other automation technology that complete processes faster and more accurately than manual labor.

And while large internationals within FMCG have seen success from their automation practices, businesses must keep innovating in order to compete better.

  • Adaptability
  • Cost optimization
  • Increased uptime
  • Industry Success


It was back in 2011 that Harvard Business Review announced that adaptability was the new competitive advantage. Now, with the constant pressure on the FMCG industry to keep production high and costs low, while consumer and market demands fluctuate, adaptability is no longer an advantage, but a necessity for survival.

By implementing the latest automation technology, like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), manufacturers can reduce costly and time-consuming manual transportation, supporting a lean approach and increasing adaptability. Unlike AGVS, all MiR AMRs employ a sophisticated mix of sensors, cameras and data to autonomously determine the most efficient route, and move out of the way of obstacles.


How AMRs help CPG and FMCG companies meet increasing customer demand

Cost optimization

The pressure to keep costs low but quality high is not going anywhere. Couple this with foreign competition, tariff uncertainty and labor skill gaps, and the FMCG industry finds itself in an uncomfortable position. However, AMR can help by replacing inefficient manual processes with efficient, autonomous production process. Not only does this reduce production bottlenecks and delays caused by human error, it also helps manufactures combat worker shortages, by allowing skilled workers to complete value adding, complex tasks instead of manual transportation. Creating a safer environment with the world-class MiR AMRs means that costs can also be saved by reducing lost workdays and fines due to workplace injuries. By combining human skill with robotic reliability and autonomy, FMCG businesses can achieve the optimal model for manufacturing success.

Increased uptime

Unlike AGVs, AMRs rely largely on onboard sensors and cameras to operate—and not wires or magnetic tape. Refitting the factory floor is, therefore, not needed, limiting the downtime that can occur when implementing other technology. MiR AMRs also have an intuitive interface, making the robots easy to set up and use, resulting in a very quick implementation. But the MiR robots offer time saving in other ways too. Firstly, a fleet of autonomous mobile robots can work around the clock, ensuring a steady material flow. Rather than stopping in the face of an obstacle – like an AGV would - they can calculate alternative routes without disrupting the workflow. What’s more MiR AMRs can be switched to perform new tasks with relative ease, increasing uptime.

Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies, whether food-, personal- or homecare-focused, are increasingly automating material handling and other warehousing processes by deploying flexible, adaptable and safe autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).

As FMCGs see shortened lead times, reduced bottlenecks and improved workplace safety from even one single robot deployment in one workflow, they’re evaluating their initial investment for the potential to rollout fleets of robots across multiple sites and myriad workflows.   

Three workflows that are proving most successful at meeting FMCG company objectives for deploying AMRs today.

Inbound/Outbound Components Delivery to Production:

FMCG components are stored in intermediary storage warehouses or other preparation areas before moving to production facilities. Traditionally, fork trucks or AGVs have been used to transport the components, buteither due to significant risks of injury and lack of space to navigate for AGVs, many companies have been looking to limit their use and find safer, more agile alternatives for repetitive and “last meter” transport. AMRs with integrated pallet lifts or specifically designed cart solutions can autonomously transport pallets or low volume to the production line and are a safer alternative to AGVs or manual tuggers. This is especially true if they must travel through populated areas and dynamic environments where people, stacks of goods, and other equipment must be safely navigated.

In addition to enabling the company to relocate their employees for more value-added tasks, AMRs actually help them increase throughput by reducing change-over cycle between production of different stock keeping units (SKUs).

For example, companies have myriad primary and secondary packaging components for each production run. This is due to the increased customization needs driven by consumer or retailer demands, as well as global trends like sustainability. The majority of these components will not be re-used in the next batch, and as a result, need to be replaced for the production of new SKUs. Automating the movement of these components, either on the pallets or in bins, have long been a challenge due to typically small spaces and highly populated environments. However, with the emergence of these more agile and collaborative AMR solutions that can work around the clock, FMCG supply chains are moving towards becoming “lights off” factories of the future as many have long envisioned.

Several FMCG companies have already deployed fleets of AMRs—a mix of both high and low payload versions—to deliver different components on the pallets or carts to the production line and remove unused components from previous production runs. Deploying AMRs for this application can benefit multiple production lines simultaneously, resulting in substantial productivity gains and cost savings, whether in capacity or human-worker hours.

Quality sample handling during production runs:

Traceability is critical, especially in the food industry as the FDA requires most food manufacturers to follow the movement of food products and their ingredients through all steps in the supply chain. Continuously improving the quality process among retailers puts additional pressure on the traceability demands of manufactures on both their own brands as well as private-label brands. Again, due to external consumer and market trends, likely exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, the amount and frequency of quality sample retention from production is exploding. As a result, engineering teams are using collaborative robots technologies like robotic arms (cobots) for “pick and place” and AMRs to handle the workload. Companies are even using AMRs alone to shuttle samples from between the lines to storage or using AMRs with cobots installed on top to pick samples straight from the live production line and take them to storage or labs for analysis.  

Integrating AMRs into end-of-line palletizing:

As FMCG companies continue to realize the benefits of using AMRs in their production/packing halls, they continue to look for ways to further expand their AMR footprint. Naturally, the focus falls on expanding pallet movement applications from delivering components to transporting finished goods to end-of-line (EOL)/ warehouses.

Space and human activity continue to be a challenge at the palletizer. To solve this problem, some companies have deployed automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that move along a set path with infrastructure such as magnetic tape or recently laser-based navigation which still requires designated path, but in both cases are requiring significant investments to establish and change infrastructure.

AMRs with open-source capabilities are an ideal alternative, as they can easily integrate into modern palletizing systems. AMRs offer considerable savings over AGVs for this workflow. the robots themselves are less expensive; they do not require infrastructure built into the facility floor, and consequently, they can be quickly—and easily—programmed and deployed. As a result, integrating AMRs into palletizers is on the rise. Not only are companies integrating AMR into existing palletizer installations, but they are working with palletizing systems manufactures to bring turnkey solutions from the onset. Many palletizing and material handling companies see AMR as “game changers” for their businesses, drafting plans to phase out their conveyer systems and replace them with AMR for pallet transfer. This engagement from other players in the ecosystem is expected to accelerate the use case of AMRs in FMCG and other industries.