Robots to cut receival costs
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.