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Dispatches from pack Expo

Intelligrated: Automation explosion due to high labour costs

By Jenny EAGLE , 24-Sep-2013

Chris Cole, CEO, Intelligrated
Chris Cole, CEO, Intelligrated

High health care costs, a lack of interest in repetitive manual labour and rising worker wages has led to an explosion of automated machinery, according to Intelligrated.

The North American-based manufacturer launched two capabilities to its business at Pack Expo in Las Vegas; the Alvey robotic mixed-load palletizing to handle multiple product types and software to create mixed-SKU (stock keeping unit) pallets.

Chris Cole, CEO, Intelligrated, told FoodProductionDaily it has seen an increase in its machinery in China because the robots drive more productivity for them.

Repetitive, unsafe jobs

There are a number of things driving automation today. It has come from a need to eliminate repetitive, unsafe jobs that have caused a lot of injuries in the past with heavy loads and pallets. It just cries out for automation,” he said.

In addition to replacement of labour with lower costs and more efficient machines we are seeing a need for improved accuracy.

As the world moves away from delivery to stores and direct orders to the end consumer you have to have 100% accuracy. Any manual system is subject to inaccuracy but we have been able to squeeze that down to 1%.

China

Cole added in places where labour rates are still very low Intelligrated systems has become more popular in places like China, Malaysia and Mexico.

Productivity is what drives the world’s economy. You have to become more efficient at how you manufacture, distribute and sell and its through automation that we build that productivity,” he said.

It’s becoming more popular in China because even though the country has 1.3bn people, manufacturers there are having trouble getting people to apply for and stay in difficult repetitive jobs.

We are also seeing an explosion of the internet. Some of the largest internet companies in the world are in China. Even though they don’t have the infrastructure the West has they are improving this all the time.”

Global expansion

Depending on the sophistication of the machinery, Cole said its robots can be built within 12-26 weeks. 

The 12-year-old company, which works with clients including Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola and AB InBev, is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has expanded from 2,300 employees to 200 this year and plans to hire another 100 workers before the end of the year.

It is currently looking for acquisitions in related fields to automation and plans to grow internationally.

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