RoboClean: Human Robot Collaboration for Allergen-Aware Factory Cleaning

In food and drink manufacturing a third of working time is spent cleaning, significantly affecting productivity and efficiency.  This project seeks to understand and address the industry need for cleaning support technologies by developing and deploying human-robot collaboration to assist in the cleaning of factories and detect the unwanted presence of allergens to prevent food safety events. The internal cleaning of processing equipment has become a fully automated process known as Clean-in-Place and is beginning to take advantage of novel technologies such as in-line sensors, IoT and machine learning. However, cleaning of the factory floor is still primarily completed by human workers following strict industry standards specified by the British Retail Consortium. One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers is the cross contamination of allergens within the manufacturing environment, and cleaning is a critical step in preventing this.  This challenge is growing as manufacturers strive to provide more variety and alternative formulations (e.g. gluten free). The Food Standards Agency states that the number of food safety events relating to all allergens has more than doubled between 2014 and 2017 (Food Standards Agency, 2018).

This project will investigate and demonstrate the potential of human-robot collaboration, integrated with IoT sensors for cleaning and allergen detection on a factory floor. The outcomes of this  project will include the design, implementation, and evaluation of an  interactive  connected system enabling novel human-robot collaboration and sensor data collection in a factory by engaging with partners in industry (British Pepper and Spice) and the third sector (the Food and Drink Forum).

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This project is part funded by the University of Nottingham Smart Products Beacon of Excellence