After a Year of Changes, Ranpak Automation Charts a Bold Course for the Future

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Ranpak Automation comprises Ranpak’s capabilities and solutions for end-of-the-line automation technology. With a broad range of applications, these solutions are just the first chapter of a story that is being written to include advanced technologies including AI, robotics, computer vision, and advanced analytics. To explain the origins of Ranpak Automation, as well as the course for the future, our Global Business Director for Automation Sven Reichrath sat down to answer questions and showcase his vision of innovation.

Q: Thank you for being here Sven, can you share some background about the last 12 months of Ranpak Automation?

A lot has happened in the past 12 months, but I’d like to start by going back even further. I joined Ranpak in October of 2019, in the role of Operations Director for EMEA (Europe and the Middle East), which included Automation at that time. We still had a small Automation team in Dijon, France, as well as an office in Paris that had formerly been the company e3neo, which Ranpak acquired in March of 2017.

At the time I joined Ranpak Automation, we had relied on outsourcing for machine assembly for the past several years, and the decision had been made to bring that expertise back in-house. Only three months later, in January of 2020, we started manufacturing in a new and dedicated location near Heerlen in Kerkrade, Netherlands. Within a year and a half, we established a solid line of expertise within that location, more than tripling our employee headcount as well as our in-house production capacity.

During this same time, we continued developing new products and adding to our R&D capabilities, bringing artificial intelligence and computer vision expertise into Ranpak Automation to make our products smarter and more intelligent. In just the past 12 months, we have developed our next generation Cut’it!™ EVO, an automated cushioning solution using pick and place, and new versions of AutoFill™ and AccuFill®.

In November of 2020, I stepped into the Business Director role for Automation to grow it into a key, global pillar for the company together with my counterpart for the Americas, Matt Andrews. We have also recently appointed a Director of Innovation with a strong logistics background, Saar Davidi, to make sure that we are staying on top of technology trends and launching new products.

Q:  Since last year, the global business environment has changed a lot, especially with the context of COVID-19. How has Ranpak Automation adapted?

The impact that COVID-19 has had on e-commerce has led to a major initiative across all of Ranpak to support customer growth in response to the needs and demands of global consumers.

Every challenge presents an opportunity to innovate. In our historical project execution, we would invite customers to our shop to attend factory acceptance tests and other demonstrations. Now, we have made it possible so that we can do this via live video, showing tests and features to customers on a fully remote basis. In some countries, like Australia, we’ve had to establish third-party teams along with remote support based on the fact that it’s more or less impossible to travel there right now.

All of our projects have a story. Last year we installed projects in Europe, Canada, Korea, Japan, and in Australia even in the midst of COVID-19. We adapted over time to the new reality on the ground, eventually realizing that we would need to find ways to travel and find our way to our customers despite restrictions. To allow our technicians to travel abroad, we have them doing PCR tests up to four times a month, which can honestly be somewhat unpleasant. The dedication and the creativity of the Automation team to help our customers is a truly special thing.

Q: Where do you see Ranpak Automation in 5 years? What are some of the milestones we hope to pass in that amount of time?

Our Ranpak  headquarters in EMEA has expanded to include three separate buildings. In the next year and a half, we will be reconsolidating back into one single building which will have enough room to continue expansion. At the same time, we are opening up an Automation center in North America with the intention to allow us to serve our customers from two bases.

We work with a broad range of customers. A customer who has started a business out of their garage and then experienced exponential growth to the point that they need automation can come to us and have us provide a solution. We also work with large integrators who build huge warehouses for major brands. A large chunk of our business has historically come from these major integrators. In North America as well as in APAC, we have a big opportunity to expand our business with both of these types of organization.

Currently, we have our established paper business that serves a full range of applications for packaging, as well as our Automation business with end-of-line automation solutions. Now, we are working to bring together these two lines of business in hybrid solutions. We are bridging the gap between these two worlds, and there will be significant opportunity for us there. In fact, we are unique in offering paper-based packaging solutions alongside what we can offer in automation.

I envision Ranpak Automation as a complete provider of solutions for the end-of-line of a warehouse, developing the entire process where the boxes are erected, the products protected, packed, and then shipped out on a pallet. This could include integrating technologies from other companies as well as our own to present a fully complete solution for our customers. I would also like to see us expand some of the technologies we provide into other areas of the warehouse, for example into picking items from racks. The bottom line is that we have a great team, a great product, and can be an end-of-line one-stop shop.