Automatic Handling: All Hands on Deck

Company profile

Automatic Handling takes a very ‘hands-on’ approach to the business of being ‘hands-off.’

The handling and packaging systems solution company, located in Michigan, brings not only its business as a systems solution provider seriously - but so too its roles of customer service delivery and employee appreciation.

More than 140 engineers, manufacturers, and technicians are proud to call Automatic Handling their employer, and they have an ambitious mandate to deliver. The company has built a solid reputation as a provider of effective, efficient systems that have won the confidence of mill and maintenance managers alike, and has worked hard to expand its portfolio base from a focus on automating and fabricating conveyor and packaging systems, to a provider of patented innovations and installations for film, foil, plastics, carbon paper, pulp and paper, tissue and towel, and converting facilities. The company’s portfolio offerings today include everything from broke management and pulp bale handling and dewiring, to kraft and film roll wrapping and automated roll sorting systems. This expansion was driven from the ground up, through a systematic approach designed to engage and motivate the workforce while offering opportunities to share and input ideas. “We genuinely believe in synergy and the idea that our sum is more significant than our parts,” said Nathan Pienta, Marketing Manager. “Teamwork is part of our culture, our training. In 2016 we introduced a set of corporate principles and a philosophy of ‘Be More.’ One of the nine core principles of that philosophy is ‘Team,’ and our focus on teamwork has led our company to place a heavy emphasis on person-to-person relationships. Collaboration plays out through our standards, shared expectations and mutual trust.”

Courtesy of Automatic Handling

The company calls itself a ‘vertically integrated facility,’ meaning its design, manufacturing, assembly and testing are all performed in the same location. The company has developed strong links to the surrounding Toledo, Ohio community and draws from the local pool of qualified machinists, fabricators, and technicians who trained at local schools and colleges, to bring them into the fold. “Our people and culture are our greatest differentiator,” Pienta says. “Competitors may attempt to duplicate our designs, but they are not able to copy our culture!”

Automatic Handling has been in the business of making mills safer since its inception in 1972. But the increasing pressure on mill managers and operators to do more with less – offers companies like Automatic Handling an opportunity to lighten the load. “We see a trend of the increased utilization of engineering firms to alleviate those project burdens, and that increases the need for our company to inform those engineering teams about our company’s offerings,” notes Pienta. And the company has a lot to offer. Noting that mill safety is strongly linked to increased automation and reduced handling, the company views the installation of new, high-speed rewinders as the entry point for a customer looking to introduce new material handling systems to its operations. Automatic Handling sees its role as one of a guide on that journey. In brown paper, the company has taken note of an increase in demand for safe handling of narrow slits and has responded to this demand with technological and operational efficiencies for high-speed automatic winders unloading and reloading. In pulp and paper, the company is focusing on increasing adoptions of its wet end technologies. The company’s automatic bale handling and dewiring systems have enjoyed particular success in the tissue market, with multiple installations over the past several years.

When it comes to staying ahead of the technological curve, however, Automatic Handling falls back on old practices and prioritizes relationships with customers and suppliers alike. “Relationships are vital,” Pienta says. “We take the time to listen to our customers and understand where our efforts can make an impact. We have close relationships with our key suppliers, who furnish us with leading-edge ideas from multiple industries. We use internal training and an intranet site to ensure all our employees are engaged in our marketplace, and we purposefully increase the feedback loop within our organization through paperless manufacturing, flexible training, and field visits.” The company emphasizes continuous improvement and opens itself to positive and negative feedback to inform lessons learned. “Having a culture capable of development means that receiving positive and negative feedback loops is critical to our growth and momentum.”
Momentum and growth appear most assuredly in the cards for Automatic Handling. The company is currently researching automatic labeling technologies and advanced roll measuring stations for quality assurance in roll handling systems and is working to develop a cost-effective, automatic core plugging and deplugging system that would be capable of using different-sized plugs and additional automated core inspection techniques. On the pulp and paper side, Automatic Handling’s technology for collecting and managing broke fibre sees rapid advancement. “We have customers who have adopted our core cleaning and core handling systems throughout North America, and we are always developing new ways to help our customers increase throughput through systems that minimize touches.”

As mills adapt, so too does Automatic Handling. “In addition to wanting safer operations, we see that customers are exploring dramatically higher speeds and capacities. Although their volume is increasing, so is the flexibility of these mills. We are handling a greater breadth of slits sizes than ever before, and so we have had the opportunity to guide more and more clients in laying out safe new labeling, sorting, and automatic warehousing system,” Pienta notes. That said, while Automatic Handling is poised to evolve, one aspect of the company will undoubtedly remain; the value it places on its people, both inside and out. “Without a doubt, our relationships with customers and within our team define our success.”

About Automatic Handling

Automatic Handling® is a worldwide manufacturer of custom and patented handling, packaging, and fiber recovery systems. Using these technologies, Automatic Handling strives to improve their customers' production efficiencies, limiting waste and boosting production times as well as protecting valuable machinery and increasing overall productivity through automation. Additional information about the company and its systems is available at

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