Matson Fruit Automates Storage With Robotics
Of all the high-tech equipment that’s been installed by Pacific Northwest growers/packers/shippers over the past year, perhaps none is more state-of-the-art than the new cold storage facility at Matson Fruit Company in Selah, WA.
The system employs an automated storage retrieval system (ASRS) — in other words, it’s robotic. It is the brainchild of Jordan Matson, who’s in charge of the company’s shipping. What’s surprising is that Matson was not trained as an engineer, and is, a fact he mentions casually, a college dropout. (Though it should be noted that another native son of the Evergreen State who bears that burden is Bill Gates.)
Matson got the idea to use the ASRS system, which consists of a variety of computer-controlled systems for automatically placing and retrieving loads from defined storage locations, when he went to a material handling show in Cleveland, OH, in 2003. Matson Fruit had been using the same loading dock since 1982, and the company had grown 700% in that time, so it was clear that an upgrade was needed. Matson saw an ASRS system at the trade show, which was attended by people from all sorts of companies, from PepsiCo Inc. to UPS Inc. He was smitten.
“I love technology; I love electronics. Also, we were trying to reduce our reliance on labor,” he says. “I started brainstorming about how we could utilize it. Your imagination can run wild when you’re on an airplane for four hours.”