March 04, 2019      

One of the worst jobs within commercial kitchens is clearing food trays and separating the silverware, dishes and glasses from a food tray and then preparing them for the dishwasher. Cambridge Consultants, a British consultancy, today released a video showing a new prototype automation system that uses a combination of artificial intelligence and robotics.

The company’s “Turbo Clean” system can help automate the process of clearing food trays and washing dirty dishes. The prototype is part of a wider business transformation initiative undertaken for a multinational commercial catering company, the company said in a press release.

Turbo Clean commercial kitchen prototype

Machine vision and artificial intelligence software helps identify different parts of a food tray being returned for cleaning. Source: Cambridge Consultants

Combining deep learning, machine vision, and robotics, the Turbo Clean system can recognize the contents of returning food trays, removing the items from each tray (including food waste and cutlery), and loading the different items into a dishwasher.

The worst job in the kitchen

The company said it first analyzed the kitchen tasks most suitable for automation, as well as discovering those “that would generate not only commercial value, but human appreciation, and that would be welcomed by management and staff alike.” After doing research with many commercial catering operations, the consultants found the single process that staff wanted to automate most, and that would also yield the best business benefits: clearing trays and washing dishes.

Turbo clean glasses commercial kitchen

Robotics combined with AI and machine vision have helped create the Turbo Clean prototype. Source: Cambridge Consultants

Cambridge Consultants said the new bespoke automation system resulted in the creation of significant intellectual property for the client’s business, with the result of a kitchen cleaning procedure where one food tray can be processed every six seconds.

The system was drained using thousands of images of trays with “every conceivable combination” of dirty dishes, the company said. “The machine vision not only recognizes items and waste on each tray in milliseconds, but can also classify items such as bowls, plates, glasses and cutlery.” The system can also identify new variations of items, which means new sets of “crockery and cutlery” can be used without the need for reconfiguration.

“It’s widely accepted that AI and robotics will impact almost every business,” said Nathan Wrench, commercial director at Cambridge Consultants. “Working with our client, we were able to design a system that uses a novel combination of technologies and to take them from initial discovery right through to the prototype ready for commercialization. We look forward to continuing our support in the future.”

About Cambridge Consultants

For more than 50 years, Cambridge Consultants has helped clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. The company employs more than 800 people, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in the U.K. (Cambridge), U.S. (Boston), and Singapore. The company is part of Altran, a global engineering and R&D services firm that employs more than 27,000 people in more than 20 companies.