Chuck Frank knows the work of Advanced Handling Systems (AHS) inside and out. He actually has been at the company, an Erlanger, Kentucky-based systems integrator and provider of integrated fulfillment and distribution solutions, for more than 30 years. Frank started at AHS in 1988, when he was hired as a project manager to oversee the installation of systems around the country. He moved to sales in the mid-1990s and eventually worked his way up to president of the company in 2001. He has a B.A. with a focus in business administration from Northern Kentucky University.
Q: How do you view the current state of the material handling market?
A: The market is doing great. Demand is at an all-time high, and new technology opportunities are opening up at a rapid pace. The ongoing issue in staffing requirements—along with the continued growth of e-commerce—is pushing and challenging all suppliers to provide solutions to address those challenges.
Q: What advantages does a design and integration company like yours offer clients?
A: AHS stays abreast of trends and technologies provided by a wide variety of OEMs in the states and from countries around the world. This allows for a nonbiased approach to solutions that fall under the “good,” “better,” and “best” categories. Because of our wide variety of robotics, software, and traditional MHE (material handling equipment) partners, we provide our clients with the options that will help them best meet the needs of their customers.
Q: The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in many supply chains. What are your clients looking for to fill those gaps?
A: From what we've seen in the market, clients are looking for scalable solutions in response to their customers' expectations of accurate order fulfillment and expedited deliveries. That has been a huge gap that clients are looking to fill. Buying habits have changed as well. Consumers are shopping online versus in a brick-and-mortar store, with curbside pickup and contactless delivery being the preferred methods.
Q: Many of your fulfillment designs now center on goods-to-person systems. What are the benefits of these technologies?
A: By far the biggest benefit is the opportunity to attack lost productivity tied to walking. Fifty percent of a person’s time is tied up in walking between tasks. Goods-to-person solutions eliminate nonvalue-added movement and drive productivity. The opportunity to deliver to the person, versus the person traveling to pick, results in fewer FTEs (full-time equivalents), a better workplace, fewer errors, and lower turnover.
Q: You began your career at AHS as a project manager. How did that field experience prepare you for your current role as company president?
A: As a matter of fact, I started as an installer/technician, which provided the hands-on experience of bringing systems to life. There isn't a book, course, or seminar that can teach this. Understanding the lifecycle of a box—from carton make-up, to induction, pick, convey, pack, shipping, and out the door—puts you in a position to know what an operator is faced with every day. Using this knowledge to design the next solution enhances the relatability with the operations team involved.
Q: What is the most significant change you’ve seen during your time in the industry?
A: What's happening currently. What’s been taking place over the last 18 months has propelled startups and technology-based companies to introduce their solutions to a market that's ready to learn, modify, build out their business plans, and take bigger risks on deploying. This has positioned both integrators and OEMs to focus on new and exciting technologies. Integrators are positioning themselves to be on the cutting edge with a team to complement this paradigm. In return, integrators are being rewarded with clients moving at record speed to integrate these solutions into their network. It is a great time to be in this space.