Tech Center Revamp Helps Hytrol Convey Strengths

Tech Center Revamp Helps Hytrol Convey Strengths
Hytrol executives give a tour of its newly renovated, 45,000-SF Technology Center. (Hytrol)

Just in time for Labor Day, one of northeast Arkansas' leading employers upgraded its place of labor. 

Hytrol, which employs close to 1,200 and is the largest conveyor manufacturer in North America, dedicated its renovated, 45,000-SF Technology Center on Aug. 28, marking the occasion with an open house, tours and an assemblage of local leaders.

The $1.5 million worth of updates includes 185 new conveyors, a 6,500-SF research and development lab, testing capabilities for customer-provided products and an industry-exclusive, augmented reality room in which customers can preview their material handling designs.

"Seeing is believing, right? And if it shows the customer we have the capability to solve their problems they're more likely to purchase Hytrol equipment," said Ben Moyer, Hytrol director of research and development. 

Moyer said the center basically has three functions — research and development, technology showcase and product preview. He said a dedicated research and development lab, separate from other day-to-day operations, helps Hytrol to more effectively carry out its mission. 

The secure area is solely for new technology, product development and prototype testing and features 10 test bays, a rapid prototyping area and safety center.

"It definitely demonstrates the commitment from the ownership to doing — and in my opinion, of course — doing it the right way," Moyer said. 

The augmented reality, or "experience" room, makes previewing a customer's material handling system possible before anything on the drawing board is built or installed.

"[We can] build virtual warehouses, virtual conveyors and see how it's going to work in the space," Moyer said. 

The room is the result of a collaboration between Hytrol and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center.

"We partnered with them starting in November last year," said Moyer, who explained the initial connection was made at a tech startup event.

Two stories of space display the 185 conveyors, on eight different loops, demonstrating the sortation and accumulation conveyor systems Hytrol provides to warehouses and distribution centers worldwide. Hytrol will also be able to test customer products in the area.

Timothy Burcham, engineering dean at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, was on hand to tour the new center and, in a statement, said the tech center opening was a great day for the university and community as well as for Hytrol.

Arkansas State is seen as one of the company's potential employment pipelines — some students have begun careers as interns — while Hytrol and its state-of-the-art new facilities could help to draw prospective students to Arkansas State, Moyer said.

"We have a really close relationship," he said. "We have needs in terms of talent and they have opportunities to bring prospective students in. I'd say it's a strong relationship for sure."

Ultimately, with the upgrades and "wow" factors, the Technology Center is another way for Hytrol to demonstrate that it is good at what it does, Moyer said. 

"For me the whole transformation, it's really about when we bring customers in," Moyer said. "They see our capability and they think about us as a systems provider and a solutions provider. When I walk through the space the customer facing side, to me, is really important."

More On This Story