A recent report by Zion Research shows that global demand for industrial robotics is growing at 6 percent per year. By 2020, the market is estimated to reach $42 billion — up from $30 billion in 2014.

These "industrial robotics" are essentially dynamic and intuitive machines that can perform a multitude of complex industrial tasks like drilling, welding, soldering, material handling and molding, among many others. Time-consuming and difficult tasks can now be easily performed via these robots, reducing production time and increasing efficiency in business.

The technology has found an important place in multiple industries. While the automotive segment remains the largest application market, the food and beverage industry is not too far behind.

In fact, the use of industrial robotics in the F&B segment is expected grow at an incredible annual rate of 29 percent through 2019. The robust growth the F&B industry has seen in recent years is expected to continue, and robotics is expected to play a vital role in this growth.

Various factors that are driving this demand are the need for more speed and efficiency leading to increased productivity, hygienic and contamination-free production areas, optimized end product and reduced product damage. All of these are supposed to help the industry adapt to changing sales patterns.

Global competition and stringent government regulations have been pitted against increasing retailer demands and labor costs. The use of industrial robots is expected to bring down costs and bring efficiency back into the process.

While retail and palletizing are the most sought-after uses of robotics, pick and place, packaging and processing benefit greatly, too. Easy handling and consistency of operations are the great benefits that adoption of this technology will deliver, even though initial investment cost is high.

As mentioned earlier, demand for clean and contamination-free production areas is one of the main drivers of the industrial automation deployment and growth. This is especially true of countries like Australia, South Korea, Japan and the U.S., where food safety and hygiene regulations are more stringent than others.

As a result, these markets are witnessing a higher demand for industrial robots in their food and beverage companies. The growth is, however, not limited to these countries, a phenomenon that shows an increasing awareness for food safety globally.

These developments have, however, generated some concerns. Adopting industrial robotics in the production process which means smooth operations and increased hygiene may also mean labor issues and protests. For business owners, robots will not only perform the mundane, repetitive and dangerous tasks easily; they will also offset rising labor costs. Some regions are expecting protests and backlash from workers.

Yet consumer perceptions have been mostly positive. They are looking at greater efficiency, lower production costs and increased food safety, and also at the safety of laborers in dangerous tasks.

The application of robots in the food and beverage industry can also match the lack of skilled labor and operational challenges that occur in different regions. Along with the above benefits, it could also help prevent wastage and contribute to food security.