Vanderlande Industries: Leading the Way in Material Handling Solutions

Vanderlande Industries focuses on optimizing its clients’ business by delivering turnkey material-handling systems that actually work. “We are No. 1 in the world of baggage handling that is about 53 percent of our turnover, and the rest is evenly distributed between warehouse, parcel and postal automation, and customer service,” Manager of Continuous Improvement Matt Middlebrook says.

The Marietta, Ga.-based company is a $1 billion leading global supplier of turnkey material-handling systems for airport baggage and the distribution, parcel and postal markets. An OEM and system integrator of all its material-handling solutions, Vanderlande offers engineering, design, installation and operations, as well as maintenance services.

Vanderlande brings more than 60 years of experience to the industry and ranks as the fifth-largest material-handling supplier in the world, the company states. Its headquarters in Georgia serves the United States, Canada and Mexico. “We put a lot of effort into delivering systems that actually work and pride ourselves on our long-term customer relationships,” Middlebrook adds. “Our goal is to become our clients’ long-term service partner, maximize their operational effectiveness and exceed all stakeholders’ increasing expectations.”

One of the unique aspects of Vanderlande is its culture, which governs the way it deals with one another and its customers with the intent on building the company’s reputation. “We have operations and maintenance sites all over the continent and the employees there may never step in the Marietta office, so how do you maintain the Vanderlande identity when you don’t have close proximity?” Middlebrook asks. “We pay close attention as to how we need to act.”

Meeting Demand

Vanderlande is the global leader in baggage handling system solutions for large and small airports. The company focuses on every step, from check-in to reclaim, to increase efficiency and improve overall customer experience. “Our research and development department focuses on the integration side of the system,” Middlebrook explains. “We focus on the controls, and interfaces of the clients’ software because we have to integrate with flight schedules, getting the bags through the security system and to the right make-up carousel with no errors. Control systems are something that sets us apart from our competitors.”

The company’s research and development department creates an application data book of each of its technologies, which allow the project engineers to then apply the right pieces into a customized system design using a fully automated configuration tool. “Research and development creates the individual pieces, making them as optimized as possible, and the project engineers take those pieces and put them all together,” Middlebrook says.

Vanderlande’s fully automated warehouse, parcel and postal systems are constructed using the same process and meet the needs for hubs of all sizes. The systems are designed to cover the entire door-to-door process from arrival, unloading and sorting to loading and departure.

Because of the large growth in e-commerce, Middlebrook notes that there has been a noticeable shift in the warehouse, parcel and postal industries and therefore, an increase in demand for material handling systems. “Our clients like UPS and FedEx are feeling the pinch and updating their systems as rapidly as we can make them,” he adds. “One of the biggest challenges is the amount of work we need to get done in a short period of time to meet the clients’ schedule.”

To ensure its systems continue to run optimally after installation, Vanderlande offers long-term support to its clients through a variety of comprehensive services. Its team offers maintenance and operations solutions, operations and technical support, spare parts, controls software, controls support, process management, life-cycle services and training. The company’s technicians and engineers service baggage handling systems, warehouse and distribution center systems and parcel and postal hubs.

Improving Operations

Vanderlande has supply chain centers in North America, Europe and Asia, and each center is focused to provide equipment for its own geographic area, yet still allow sharing of demand and supply as needed. “We are looking to maximize the supply chain across all projects,” Middlebrook says.  “We are in a large growth mode and a lot of our efforts are concentrated on building that high-volume, high-quality value chain. We want to increase capability and capacity rapidly, so we are reaching high and low to find additional suppliers that can meet our needs.”

The company often looks for suppliers that can specialize in one product family, for example floor supports, that allows them to focus on the large number of product variants without becoming overwhelmed with complexity, Middlebrook says. “It’s a lot of work and talking to determine who is the best fit and we are constantly on the lookout,” he adds.  “We do have really good partners that are fantastic.”

By searching for suppliers that can help Vanderlande stand out and bring new products to market, the company was able to find a Wisconsin-based company that was willing to design a special pulley for its European-style baggage conveyors. “It’s a design that saves weight, saves inertia and is strong overall, but the pulley is relatively unknown in the U.S., as far as manufacturing it,” Middlebrook explains. “Bryant Products took on the challenge and did a fantastic job.”

To continue increasing its supply chain efficiency, Vanderlande has worked over the past few years to link its three supply centers to one planning system. “We trade project engineering resources around the globe and this makes us more efficient,” Middlebrook explains. “We are applying the same way of working across all our supply centers to allow for more flexibility. It’s a great advantage.”

Vanderlande also opened a 95,000-square-foot logistics center that was built as a project consolidation and staging facility. It also provides a place to test its new integration designs in-house before arriving on-site. The company is also expanding its office building to accommodate for an increase in staff. “We are approximately tripling the size of our footprint here in Marietta,” Middlebrook notes. “Every week we are adding half-a-dozen people. When I first started here six years ago, there were 70 people in the building. Now there are people here I don’t know yet.”

Future Growth

Because Vanderlande uses a lot of steel and energy to make its material handling systems, the company is focused on integrating sustainability measures to reduce its footprint. “I think we have some really good ideas, but we are waiting for the market to catch up with it,” Middlebrook notes. “The market will eventually look for sustainable options and we want to be there with the right solutions. For instance, we make a ‘blueveyor’ that is based on some really cool technology that makes it fully cradle-to-cradle certified. The belting is 100 percent recyclable and the motor gear box is very energy efficient.”

Vanderlande plans to continue adapting and managing its growth moving forward by matching the demand and material flow to site requirements. “I think that holds a lot of promise to find the best, most flexible way to provide materials in a dynamic environment,” Middlebrook says. “We try to be as adept as possible at coming up with solutions and we are one of the best ones out there in terms of being creative. Vanderlande is looked upon as the thought leader because we are always coming up with better ways to achieve the end-result.”