We deliver productivity. That’s the mantra of CR Automation, a robotics and automation engineering company based in the heart of Hastings.
Perry Field, CEO says the company specialises in post-harvest automation, delivering a mix of bespoke applications and off the shelf solutions depending on customer need. Solutions include material handling, empty and full carton handling, sorting and tracking, and palletising and cool storage for crops like apples, citrus fruit, kiwifruit, stone fruit, cherries, avocados, and asparagus.
Clients are drawn from horticulture, food manufacturing, timber processing and water infrastructure, and are businesses of all sizes, ranging from ‘Mum and Dad’ growers to multinationals. Most of CR Automation’s business comes from within the Bay, but increasingly from other growing regions domestically, and also in Australian growing regions such as Victoria.
“We deliver anything that has an industrial process, that benefits from automation,” says Perry.
Automation in post-harvest technology typically streamlines processing and packaging, involving material handling, empty and full carton handling, sorting and tracking, palletising and cool storage. CR Automation says its clients enjoy larger yields of export grade produce, get better prices for product and many have been able to gain access to high-value, pest sensitive markets.
Around 30 highly qualified staff work for CR Automation, mostly engineers, but also design specialists and fabricators, meaning the company can handle all aspects of a job from design to build.
“We are a bit unique in terms of an automation business, because we have a wide complement of professional disciplines,” says Perry.
“Mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and then of course the fabrication and working capabilities to build what we’re delivering. Quality is a big focus for the customers that we deliver to, so it has to be a big focus for us as well, and we have a full value chain.”
As well as new builds, CR Automation is also developing a specialty in machine safety, retrofitting safety features for older legacy machines, that need to be brought up to code.
Like any new technology that’s evolving, the barrier to entry for automation is getting lower and lower, says Perry.
“Previously we only had applications that gave good productivity improvement, and in very industrial cases. Now we’re seeing both automation and robotics coming into more and more applications because the technology is a lot more accessible.
“The key for CR Automation is to find those applications that can be developed and then replicated a few times. We want to do more in terms of productised offerings that allow us to (more easily) go further afield, and scale sustainably.”
As to their special sauce, Perry says that the skill set within the business is one aspect, but the other relates to the relationship between its engineers and customers.
“All of our engineers are really close to the customers in terms of solutions. So we have a team of 30, but it’s really a team of 30 also in sales. Every one of the team is fully engaged in all parts of the project lifecycle, especially right at the start.”