The author is Rich Reardon, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Bulk Handling Systems (BHS).

Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) has installed nearly 60 robotic sorters in material recovery facilities (MRFs) throughout the world. While these robots deservedly receive a lot of attention, they are only a part of our total technology offering that is injecting the industrial recycling industry with automation and intelligence.

The real innovation isn’t in the robots but in the technology that powers them: Max-AI®. Max-AI is an artificial intelligence (AI) that identifies recyclables. Max employs a vision system and multilayered neural network technology to see and identify objects in a manner similar to a person. The technology is powering improvements in MRF design, operational efficiency, recovery, system optimization, maintenance and more.

Max-AI technology is implemented throughout a MRF in standalone detection and reporting equipment, Max-AI VIS (Visual Identification System), in robotic sorters, Max-AI AQCs (Autonomous Quality Control) and in collaboration with optical sorters, NRT SpydIR® with Max-AI. To allow our customers to use this information, our team created the Total Intelligence Platform (TIP), which provides real-time and trending information on material composition, system performance and more. Max-AI technology can see and think, and this ability has opened the door to unforeseen levels of automation, intelligence and performance.

Market dominance

Not all AI is equal. BHS’ dominance in the area of AI and robotic sorting provides a distinct advantage to our current and future customers. Each installation helps to further the development of Max’s neural network, benefitting current and subsequent installations. Our vast experience has not only built the industry’s most robust neural network technology but has created a process and a team that can quickly start up working, impactful solutions.

Another distinct advantage that BHS has in this space is our familiarity with MRF design and operation. We’ve been designing and integrating equipment for recovering recyclables since 1976. We are focused on improving MRF operations, not just on providing engineered solutions. We strive to understand our customers’ pain points and work to increase their profits.

 

BHS subsidiary NRT has decades of experience creating best-in-class optical sorting equipment and software. Max-AI-powered equipment, similar to an optical sorter, employs detection technology and acts on it through sortation. We use a consistent approach to integrate computers, cameras and sensors, light, air and filters, communications equipment, etc., into our products. NRT’s deep experience and proven track record in this area have led to rock-solid Max-AI software, equipment and support. Many of the components also crossover, leading to maintenance and support efficiencies. We deploy our solutions swiftly and effectively and have a comprehensive team of experts in place to support them.

When you invest in technology with BHS, you also get the benefit of our global footprint and our extensive service and support network that prioritizes your operations: BHS Priority Support. Whether you need training or service on your Controls and Intelligence package, conveyors, screens, NRT optical sorters or Max-AI technology, we have trained support staff in place and ready to deploy anywhere in the world.

The total package

Our advanced technology combined with the Total Intelligence Platform (TIP) enable a true production environment, in which consistent products are created: inbound material and outbound quality are monitored; performance is measured in a variety of ways; and information is communicated quickly and clearly.

Our goal is to industrialize and automate the recycling process while providing facility operators the intelligence they need to effectively run their businesses—everything from material input and output to staffing, maintenance, quality and throughput. The information is there thanks to the available technology, but decision-makers must access it quickly and easily. That’s where TIP comes in.

TIP monitors and tracks throughput, uptime, downtime events, material composition, motor amperage and other performance data from various inputs throughout your processing system. It even tracks information external to the system but vital to operational success, including inbound and outbound scale weights, bales shipped and bales on hand by commodity.

Before Max-AI, material and performance audits required people. Sorting required people. And certainly operating a MRF required people. Reporting took time, and optimizing a system took even longer. Max can analyze and record material composition in real time throughout a system. TIP is the system that presents information in a format that enables operators to use it in a meaningful way. Our team also is working on dynamic optimization—soon our customers will have smart lines, adjusting their speeds, targets and other settings to maximize performance based on the material. Our customers’ current systems will continue to improve as Max-AI and TIP grow.

From an operational aspect, TIP can help a MRF’s operations and maintenance teams track performance data over any time period. Was equipment serviced? Were improvements made? An operator can quickly and easily track material composition and quality before or after this time period and at various points in a MRF. When material composition or quality changes at either an optical sorter or Max-AI AQC postsort, operators can see this in real time and address potential issues. Operators also can track performance over various months and monitor inbound material quality and its effect on performance (evaluate new contracts, routes or tip floor recipes). TIP provides immediate and trending analysis of these scenarios and more to better understand your operations and help drive your performance.

Manual material audits are now obsolete. Audits give MRF operators a snapshot at a certain point in time, while continuous monitoring via TIP provides a larger sample size and more accurate data so you can more clearly see trends over time. And, unlike manual audits, TIP is not disruptive to your operations.

Instead of relying on a few metrics that are recorded manually after each shift, such as the number of bales produced or the residue percentage, TIP offers a wider breadth of accurate data at your fingertips. You can even drill down into your residue stream to evaluate the number of recyclables that your system failed to recover by the hour, shift, day, month or any other period.

By easily accessing this data through TIP, you can make your MRF more dynamic and responsive. Based on TIP’s feedback, you can accommodate changes in incoming material in real time and become immediately aware of how your performance changes. TIP can ensure you are deploying the right resources in the right places so you can operate at the lowest cost while also being certain about the commodities you are producing.

You may be thinking, “I don’t have a BHS system or the money to invest in a completely new system, so this is no use to me.” That’s not true. BHS’ Max-AI technology and TIP are not limited to BHS systems. This technology can be added to almost any MRF.

Changing the paradigm

We want to change the way you run your business by reducing your staffing challenges and operating costs. We want to increase your system’s intelligence and your ability to make informed decisions to operate profitably. You are running a manufacturing process, and you need the automation and data advantages that are available to other manufacturers using industrial processing.

Scheduling your plant’s operations no longer has to revolve around staffing sorting positions and shuffling workers around to meet quality requirements. The Max MRF can run nearly all day, excluding scheduled maintenance, with minimal variable costs for additional “shifts.” Your MRF can operate with the flexibility to respond to market conditions, including processing more or less material, running longer hours and creating products that purposefully meet your requirements.

If you are intrigued by the possibilities, what are you waiting for? We’re building intelligent MRFs today and investing in their continued performance tomorrow. Contact us to learn how your MRF can benefit from integrating Max-AI technology and TIP. Visit us at WasteExpo to test drive the Total Intelligence Platform and see the latest Max-AI equipment in person!