High tech company goes next level with innovative automation

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Pictured: Riley Buttry, GM at Bastian Solutions. The company specializes in custom automation — things like conveyors and systems that move up and down and back and forth retrieving heavy pallets from a large grid of storage spaces. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — High-tech, advanced automation is not replacing jobs. Businesses that develop automative software and systems are in fact creating opportunities for new workers within the industry and the companies they develop automative products for.

That’s the message officials with Bastian Solutions say is important to spread.

The county engineering business is on the cutting edge as a systems integrator with the goal of creating innovative software and customized automation engineering to help companies across a broad spectrum of industry segments become leaders in their industries.

The company history of solutions varies in complexity from simple to highly automated with designs in mobile robots, automated storage and retrieval systems. They design, build, test and integrate automated equipment at the Greenfield facility.

Bastian, founded in 1952, has facilities around the world, including a seven-acre production campus located at 2155 Fields Blvd. in Greenfield. The business focuses on designing and creating custom-made equipment, including supply chain software, industrial controls and robotics that help companies across the globe operate.

The company is a division of the Indianapolis-based material handling firm Bastian Solutions and makes custom equipment for its Toyota-owned parent company and other customers.

Greg Conner is Vice President, Corporate Development and Marketing for Bastian Solutions. He’s been with the company for 17 years and said he’s been blown away by the strides the high tech industry has made during that time.

“It’s a night and day kind of difference,” he said.

Conner joined Bastian Solutions right after graduating from Purdue University with a finance degree from the Krannert School of Management in 2005. He said warehouse businesses were just tapping the surface of automation back in the early 2000s.

“Things are dramatically different now,” he said. “Things have quickly developed with the advances in automation.”

Conner recalled most of his early projects having many manual elements, but said now they’re involved in highly automated projects when it comes to getting goods to people systems.

High-tech specialists knew someday technology would help engineers develop fully automated systems, but just not so quickly.

“We always knew this is the way were were headed, but I don’t know that I ever thought it would happen this quickly,” Conner said.

Businesses like Amazon and e-commerce in general are driving the development of automated services, according to Conner.

Riley Buttry, Bastian Solutions’ general manager of custom automation, agreed with Conner. He’s been with Bastian for the past five years since Toyota Advanced Logistics acquired the company.

“Growth, particularly here in Greenfield has been tremendous and has allowed us to take on more and more challenging customers,” Buttry said.

He likes to describe the work being done by engineers in Hancock County as top-notch in developing systems, robots and automation that businesses cannot find in a catalog.

“We can design things people are looking for from scratch,” Buttry said.

For the past 70 years Bastian Solutions has grown from a Midwest company into a global corporation with over 20 U.S. offices as well as international offices in Brazil, Canada, India and Mexico.

“Every day is a new challenge dealing with questions like ‘How do we change’ and ‘How do we grow in meeting our customer needs,’” Buttry said.

Buttry graduated from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and earned a MBA from the IU Kelley School of Business. He noted while they’ve done some government work through public contractors in the aerospace industry, the vast majority of their work is utilized in the public sector.

Both men say the field of automation and robotics has just scratched the surface as to what can be done with artificial intelligence and other technologies.

“Right now, designs that are automated will start doing predictable-type tasks,” Conner said. “That’s where I see the most growth yet to come.”

While many e-commerce businesses have already adapted to automation, Buttry said they will soon see the technology branch out into other industries.

One of the businesses challenges is getting people to trust automation systems, but Conner noted that is one of the neat things that has led to the Bastian entrepreneur drive and spirit — looking at things through a different lens.

“We continue to push the edge and the envelop a little bit,” Conner said. “We are constantly thinking about how can we improve things to become more efficient.”

While Conner has an education in finance, he’s always been someone who has been intrigued by technology. While planning to go into the field of law when he was a senior at Purdue, he took an interview with Bastian and fell in love with their vision. As a result, he changed his mind about what kind of professional he wanted to be.

“This industry really has a way of sucking you in,” Conner said.

He started as a project engineer, designing, and then became a field sales representative, creating solutions for businesses that have a positive impact on what they’re trying to accomplish.

“One of those misconceptions is that automation is replacing jobs, but that is not happening, particularly in this economy,” Conner said. “Our customers are growing and expanding their businesses.”

Buttry on the other hand has always been mechanically minded. He started out working on and even building cars. He branched out into the field of automation when he was in college. When Bastian was acquired by Toyota, he found his home trying to grow the business and take it to the next level.

“We have always solved challenges for our customers, but we’re finding ways to expand and become an industry leader,” Buttry said.

That comes through developing systems and automation that some have never seen.

When it comes to the field of automation, both men feel the work they do at Bastian allows them to be one of the best in the world at what they do.

“There are just not a lot of companies out there that do what we do,” Conner said. “We’re in so many different industries and areas of automation.”

The group in Greenfield focuses on custom automation while there is another in Westfield working on just building conveyors. They also work in manufacturing, aerospace, automated guided vehicles and a robotics division.

“We will go after some of the most highly automated projects in the world,” Conner said. “When it comes to integration and automation, we’re genuinely thought of as one of the top three integrators.”

The Greenfield company employs around 110 workers and has about 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space at 315 W. New Road, double the amount it moved from in June of 2021 at 2155 Fields Boulevard.

Both men noted it’s kind of neat to know one of the top automative companies in the world is operating out of Greenfield, a community they both enjoy.

“We are one of the best-kept secrets in Greenfield, for sure,” Buttry said.

Conner noted Bastian is a homegrown Indiana company that elected to stay in Indiana following the acquisition with Toyota, which has its North American headquarters in Columbus.

“Our roots are strong here in Central Indiana,” Conner said. “We hope citizens in Indiana are proud of the types of jobs we offer here.”

Buttry noted they have an exciting and challenging work place that has a collaborative environment to find the best solutions for their clients, and that includes creating and designing automated equipment that has never been made before.

“Our entire workforce is engaged in making the work area and business better for our customers,” Buttry said. “We’re not just pushing a button or making a widget. We’re trying to find real solutions for our customers.”

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