In an industry he says is looking to move more into automation, Taylor Goode, marketing coordinator for Vancouver, Wash.-based Columbia/Okura LLC, thinks his company has the goods to meet clients’ needs.

Specifically, Goode is referring to his company’s A-series robotic palletizer, which can stack bags of potatoes on pallets or elsewhere in a tight and efficient manner.

“Load quality is a big deal,” Goode said. “(The A-series machines offer) more precise placement and a more stable load for shipping or placement.”

Goode said the machine works at the end of a production line, grabbing bags off conveyors and piling them onto pallets. The A-series has a robotic arm with specialized fingers that not only grab the bag, but ensure it’s placed on pallets in a straight, balanced and stable pile. The end of the arm is specifically designed to handle the inconsistency of potato bags. There also is a tamping mechanism that tightens the load after each sack is stacked.

Columbia/Okura, which is jointly owned by Columbia Machine and Japan’s Okura Yusoki, has more than 400 systems operating in North America, Goode said, including a few in the potato industry.

“Our systems are used in various industries — pharmaceutical, pet food, a lot of food and beverage,” he said. “If it’s bagged, boxed and shipped, we have an application for it.”

Goode said the palletizers are backed by 24-hour customer service and parts support, and the machines have few moving parts, allowing for easy cleaning and maintenance.

“More and more, people are looking to automation,” Good said. “And we just think we have the ideal solution.”