Craig Baller, General Manager, Conveyors, HarrisCraig Baller, General Manager, Conveyors
Material handling has always been an important facet of a business as it facilitates the efficient movement, protection, storage, and control of components and end-products through various stages of their lifecycle. Particularly in the food and beverages (F&B) industry, organizations have to implement robust tech-driven equipment to optimize material handling throughout their product processing and packaging operations. Originally, the F&B arena comprised 75 percent of equipment for food processing and 25 percent for food packaging. Today, however, as the COVID-19 pandemic has enhanced the significance of safe packaging, the equipment numbers have made a 180° flip, as more and more businesses are offering products with impeccable packaging that minimize contamination. As a result, a majority of F&B companies are trying to transition their operational equipment to ensure enhanced sanitation and maintenance processes, which has become the need of the hour for the F&B marketplace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing this issue with its ability to design sanitary, simple, effective, and easy-to-maintain material handling equipment is St. Paul, Minn.-based Harris. The company combines its innovative material handling portfolio with the comprehensive metal fabrication expertise of its team and their unmatched problem-solving capabilities to assist businesses in establishing efficient and safe material handling processes. “We closely collaborate with our clients, from operations all the way to maintenance and engineering, and leverage our problem-solving ability to deliver a solution that best-suits a client’s need,” says Craig Baller, general manager, Conveyors, at Harris.

Founded in 1948, Harris acquired HiMEC, Inc. in 2005, which led to the company’s expanded emphasis on developing a metal job-shop with a focus on conveyor systems. The division traversed its fair share of ups-and-downs as Baller mentions how Harris’ conveyors business fell during the 2009 recession only to come back stronger than ever by 2011, with annual business over USD five million, and through continued growth, today exceeds USD 10 million. As a company, Harris has become one of the largest mechanical contractors in the U.S. with dedicated arms for design and engineering,, controls, service, manufacturing, and more.
Harris’ current material handling portfolio comprises a wide range of systems including accumulation, case, food, incline, sanitary, spiral, trough, and other conveyor solutions, which is backed by the company’s ability to deliver seamless customer experiences across design, fabrication, installation, and startup. Harris also maximizes product floor efficiency by helping its clients reconfigure the layout of their plant through creative assessments made by its team. “Early on in a project, our designers visit a customer site, examine their needs, and develop practical solutions to enhance the overall efficiencies of their production process and help them meet their deadlines,” adds Baller.

With such unparalleled core competencies, Harris has ignited several success stories across the U.S. In one instance, the company helped an engineering firm deliver on their promise to provide 75 large belt conveyor systems to their F&B customer. This project came to Harris right in the middle of the pandemic, which meant that the company’s team was working from home. Even as they worked remotely, however, the company’s problem-solving capabilities and emphasis on delivering seamless customer experiences helped in designing and developing the entire project without stepping into the client’s facility. “We supplied individual conveyor drawings in 3-D step files, which were then implemented into 3-D layout drawing, which was followed by efficient manufacturing and timely shipping processes,” explains Baller. Above all, Harris delivered success through close collaboration with client teams and enhanced problem-solving.

Moving forward, Harris aims to expand its workforce by adding a new estimating manager, designer/ project manager trainee and an additional regional sales engineer, in an attempt to build strong footprints in newer territories in the coming months. In fact, Baller also mentions plans to develop better acquisition models to grow through critical mergers. To conclude, Baller reiterates the ethos of his company, “We will continue to be the partner that delivers the best possible material handling solution, whether that entails maintainability, sanitation, or operations.”