Ro­bots to cut re­ceival costs

Countryman - - MACHINERY AND TECHNOLOGY - Jenne Bram­mer

Co­op­er­a­tive Bulk Han­dling could halve the num­ber of ca­sual jobs avail­able dur­ing an­nual grain har­vests, fol­low­ing plans to re­duce costs and de­liver a faster, safer ser­vice by in­tro­duc­ing robotics at its re­ceival points.

CBH op­er­a­tions man­ager David Cap­per said the co-op­er­a­tive planned to trial au­to­ma­tion for ba­sic repet­i­tive tasks at eight big­ger re­ceival sites near Ger­ald­ton from the 2018-19 har­vest.

If the trial proves suc­cess­ful, the au­to­ma­tion would be in­tro­duced at up to 100 key sites across WA in time for the 2019 har­vest.

CBH em­ploys about 1500 ca­sual staff for six to 10 weeks across its vast re­ceival net­work dur­ing an av­er­age-sized sum­mer grain har­vest.

It has tra­di­tion­ally been a pop­u­lar way for univer­sity stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly from ru­ral ar­eas, to help fund their stud­ies. Mr Cap­per said there was no for­mal es­ti­mate of the cost sav­ings, but he ex­pected the num­bers of ca­sual staff could fall be­tween 30 per cent and 50 per cent. Mr Cap­per said the au­to­ma­tion would re­quire a rel­a­tively low in­vest­ment and fo­cus on ba­sic tasks.

“We’ll be fo­cus­ing on low-cost in­no­va­tion that fo­cuses on sim­ple but repet­i­tive tasks. Com­pli­cated, high-tech in­no­va­tion to be used for just six to 10 weeks of the year doesn’t make sense,” he said.

As well as cut­ting costs and de­liv­er­ing a faster ser­vice, a fur­ther ben­e­fit would be im­proved peo­ple and plant sep­a­ra­tion, thereby in­creas­ing safety.

“Each har­vest we em­ploy ca­su­als who work in a high­pres­sure en­vi­ron­ment, so we are al­ways look­ing at ways to pro­vide safer and more ef­fi­cient con­di­tions for these front­line em­ploy­ees,” he said.

CBH sam­pler Kathryn Jen­nings op­er­ates the spear for tak­ing sam­ples of grain. Sites could now be us­ing more ro­botic equip­ment for the task.

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