Sorting equipment manufacturer Compac is investing in new facilities and staff in the U.S.
Compac, part of TOMRA Food, recently opened an office in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has expansion plans in California, said Darrell Smithson, vice president of global services for the New Zealand-based company.
Smithson said the moves are part of a two- to three- year plan to increase service capabilities in the U.S. Regional service centers have expanded parts inventories and upgraded their ability to digitally connect and monitor machines.
“We recently opened a new office in Grand Rapids with our integration partner to really be able to support our customers better,” he said.
The company has added field service technicians in North America to build a better local infrastructure. Compac has about 65 service representatives in the U.S., about 25 more than a couple of years ago. Their duties include training, project management, and installation.
Compac had local support in the past, but Smithson described it as “triage.” If there was a serious issue or an improvement needed on equipment, Compac would have to bring expertise from New Zealand.
The company has been evolving in the past couple of years to put expertise closer to companies using its sorters, cutting down on the time for service and equipment installation.
The company has a facility in Visalia, Calif., and recently broke ground for a new service center there. Construction is expected to be finished during the first quarter of 2020.
Compac’s Visalia service center covers the West Coast, and the Grand Rapids facility serves the apple industry in Michigan and nearby states. Another regional service center in Buffalo, N.Y., supports U.S. and Canadian installations.
Compac’s regional service center in Yakima, Wash., is a partnership with Van Doren Sales Inc.
Equipment for the apple industry leads Compac sales, followed by citrus.
As a New Zealand-based company, Compac also specializes in kiwifruit equipment across the globe. Sorting equipment demand for stone fruit, tomatoes, pomegranates and avocados is also growing, he said. Compac cherry sorting equipment sales have been rising in recent years in California, Oregon and Washington, he said.
With their service teams, Smithson said Compac is able to provide a proactive approach to service.
“Over the last two or three years, we’ve introduced service contracts across the whole line, from start to finish, that includes both Compac equipment and other equipment,” he said.
For example, packers with a cherry line — which lays dormant for much of the year and then has to run 24/7 for several weeks — can now work with Compac service staff to run preseason predictive and analytical analysis.
That process involves looking at how the machine performed last season and what can be done to improve “up time” in the new season. That predictive approach can cost less than dealing with down time and fixing equipment on an “ad hoc” basis, he said.
“That’s a big fundamental change that I think Compac is helping to drive but also I’m seeing right across the industry,” he said.