Although a national, downward trend in sales is happening in many sectors, Hanan Products, a 75-year-old, third-generation wholesaler in the whipped topping, icing and dessert-filling sector—and the original creator of Tasty Whip—has seen an increase in sales. 

As business has increased, so has the potential stress on employees who take on the heavy physical labor at their facility. Some of the boxes full of product are as heavy as 40 lbs., which takes a toll on workers and slows the process. Even for those employees who are comfortable performing the task, it’s physically exhausting work, and Hanan reports that the burden was only getting more difficult and time consuming. 

To lighten employees’ loads—literally—the company turned to K2 Kinetics, to customize and install a robot which they named Hugo after a now retired, 30-year employee whose favorite job was stacking boxes on pallets for shipping.

The robot picks up and stacks heavy boxes in the warehouse of the Hicksville, Long Island, N.Y. facility. The giant robotic arm does all the heavy lifting, so employees do not have to complete this step in the manufacturing and packing process. In addition to helping its employees, Hugo helps meet the increased demand for its products with its high-speed 6-axis model with a 70 kg payload. 

The automation saves time and has allowed the company to assign employees to other tasks. “Moving boxes is tiring work,” says Ryan Hanan, chief operating officer at Hanan Products. “Our staff was getting exhausted stacking heavy boxes each day, and it made us think. It’s a critical job, so we wanted to come up with a solution that would take the stress off them, while also increasing production and output speed. Hugo was the right answer.”

Capable of picking and stacking 4,000 cases per day, the robot can stack up to 8 per min., which is much faster than employees can do by hand. The company reports that Hugo performs this demanding job with ease and improved accuracy. Additionally, the new technology makes pallets more structurally sound and uniform for storage and shipping.

“There’s no question about it, Hugo gives us an advantage that we pass along to our clients as we stay ahead of demand,” says Paul Hanan, the company’s chief financial officer. “With the world opening up and consumers returning to social gatherings and events, we are seeing significant spike in demand for our products, both from current and new customers. Hugo is custom made for doing the heavy lifting so we can redirect our employees—many who’ve worked with us for more than a decade—to other critical jobs.”

In October, Hanan added another packing machine, with the ability for future upgrades. The company’s modernization is being led by Paul and Ryan Hanan, the grandsons of Hanan Products’ founder, Stuart Hanan. 

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