Dematic Corp. recovers from the recession

July 30, 2010
| By Pete Daly |
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“So far, ’10 has turned out to be a positive year for Dematic,” said Ken Ruehrdanz.

The company once known as Rapistan, which was among the flood of downsizers during the Great Recession, has been adding employees since late 2009 — about 83, to be exact.

“And we see the trend continuing and have plans to hire 80 more” before the end of the year, added Ruehrdanz, industry manager at Dematic Corp., which has a plant on Plymouth Road near Michigan Street in northeast Grand Rapids.

Dematic Corp., now an independent, privately held company, designs and manufactures conveyors and related material handling systems and software for factories, warehouses and distribution centers. The global company has just opened a new technology center at its European manufacturing/engineering headquarters near Frankfurt, Germany. Its North American manufacturing/engineering headquarters are in Grand Rapids, and similar headquarters for its Asia/Pacific market are in Sydney, Australia.

Dematic, which has operations in 22 countries around the world, was founded as Rapistan in Grand Rapids 71 years ago. Three different German companies subsequently owned it in its later years, the last being Siemens AG, a Munich -based conglomerate that sold it in 2006 to a European investment group called Triton, with offices in Stockholm and London. Today, Dematic Corp.’s financial management headquarters are in Luxembourg.

Ruehrdanz said the Dematic plant here now employs about 750 people, out of a total of 1,100 in the U.S. and Canada. At its peak just before the onset of the recession, Dematic’s U.S./Canadian operations employed about 1,300.

Dematic has “evolved into what we call supply chain management,” which extends beyond manufacturing of material handling equipment. It designs complete, automated systems for its customers for maximum efficiency in the movement of products and raw materials into and out of factories, warehouses and distribution centers.

Ruehrdanz said the 83 jobs filled here in the last eight months and the 80 more that will be filled this year are “primarily in engineering,” including software, mechanical, industrial engineering, electrical, and some sales engineering and project management positions.

Dematic Corp. had global sales of about $1 billion in 2009, according to Ruehrdanz, which would make it about the third-largest company of its type in the world.

“It’s a pleasure to be able to build a staff and see growth again,” he said.

The new German tech center announced last week is a demonstration facility, featuring multiple integrated material handling systems designed to optimize logistics processes, increase productivity and reduce operational costs. The demonstrations include goods-to-person order selection, mixed case palletizing, automated storage buffers and load sequencing. The demonstrations use a modular conveyor system, Dematic Multishuttle, automated mixed case palletizing, ergonomic operator assisted palletizing, pallet conveyor and use of DC Director software.

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