Casey King with AZO, Inc.

On this episode of Industrial Talk, we are chatting with Casey King with AZO about maintenance accessibility, ergonomics and safety in your material handling solution.  Here are the key takeaways:

  • Casey is the Director of Engineering and Operations at AZO, a company that designs bulk ingredient handling systems.
  • AZO can handle projects of any size, from small one-offs to fully automated new production plants.
  • Casey discusses the importance of maintenance and accessibility in the design of material handling systems.
  • In the past, maintenance was often not considered until after the system was installed. This led to problems with access to equipment and components.
  • AZO is now making a conscious effort to consider maintenance and accessibility early in the design process.
  • This helps to ensure that systems are easy to maintain and that components can be easily replaced.
  • Casey also discusses the challenges of finding and retaining plant resources.
  • In some cases, it is no longer possible to find enough manual laborers to staff a plant.
  • This is leading to a greater demand for automation.
  • Azo can help companies to automate their plants and to improve their efficiency.

Here are some additional points that were made in the conversation:

  • Casey emphasizes the importance of having a “owners mentality” when designing material handling systems. This means thinking about how the system will be used over the long term, not just during the initial commissioning phase.
  • Casey also discusses the importance of using standardized components in material handling systems. This makes it easier to maintain and repair the system, and it also makes it easier to upgrade the system in the future.

Overall, the conversation provides a good overview of the challenges and opportunities in the material handling industry. Azo is well-positioned to help companies to address these challenges and to improve their efficiency.

Also, get your exclusive free access to the Industrial Academy and a series on “Why You Need To Podcast” for Greater Success in 2023. All links designed for keeping you current in this rapidly changing Industrial Market. Learn! Grow! Enjoy!


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conversation, casey, people, industrial, equipment, handling, upfront, plant, design, material, pn ids, predictive maintenance, AZO, sensors, talk, folks, asset, maintain, put, professionals


Welcome to the Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting-edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's go.


Hey there, and welcome to Industrial Talk. Good morning. Good afternoon. And good evening, thank you very much for joining this platform that celebrates industry professionals all around the world, because you're bold, brave, you dare greatly, you're changing lives and you are changing the world each and every day. That's why we celebrate you on this platform. In the hot seat, we have Casey King, and we're going to be talking a little bit about accessibility from a maintenance perspective, ergonomics as well as safety, because that's important on this particular podcast. So let's get cracking. Yeah, she's with a company called AZO, we're talking about material handling. And and I was very fortunate to be able to help start up a sugar refinery down here in Louisiana. And it is all about material handling how you how you refine the sugar, how you move the sugar and how you package the sugar. It is an amazing process to say the least, and companies like a AZO and professionals like Casey, absolutely passionate about being able to do that efficiently. And we just take it for granted. I'm just telling you right now, if it wasn't for the opportunity to help start up the sugar refinery. I wouldn't know the magnitude of how important this material handling the solutions that are being delivered by companies like a AZO are to just our way of life. And they're constantly, they're constantly improving and making it better. But they're always focused on safety. They're always focused on, on how to design these very complex systems in a way that allows these assets to be properly maintained for many, many, many years. And it's just, it is it's an amazing thing. So my recommendation, if you ever have an opportunity to to visit a facility that is handling bulk, you know, material, do so because it's it truly is a wonder to be hauled because and then, you know, Casey and teammates Oh, they just take it for granted. They know how to do this stuff. And, and they can they can optimize, not just a greenfield type of project. Of course, they can do that. But be able to optimize and to make it more efficient, a brownfield type of line to as well. And it's just exciting. So people like Casey, all right, some house cleaning business one, go out to Industrial Talk, we're going to be at a number of events. And I would highly recommend that you put these events on your calendar as a way of just visiting and and connecting with professionals who are passionate about solving problems. So go out there that those are events that you need to you need to engage in. We have webinar, well not webinars, I call them webcasts. Sorry about that. webcasts that highlight, you know, go into greater depth as opposed to just the podcast, go into the greater depth of being able to solve problems, be able to download material, and really help it they're all out there too. And we're going to be doing a series on utilities and utilities from a data perspective, utilities from a digitalization perspective. So we've got some really interesting projects that are happening, as well as the state of manufacturing, and they're brought to you by fictive. So a lot going on at Industrial Talk that I just highly recommend that you get engaged and all it takes is just go out to Make it happen. Let's get on with the conversation. Casey King, AZO, the company we're talking about material handling but but from a design perspective and keeping that forefront in the communication and having it up front. So enjoy the chat. Casey, welcome to Industrial Talk. Thank you very much for finding time in your busy schedule because you're a you've got mad skills I've been out you need to get more Yeah, you need to get more engaged on LinkedIn, FYI.


Okay, all right. Noted.


You're not noting that you're you're not putting it on a piece of paper. You're going to ignore me. Are you having a good day?


I am I am. How are things with you? have no complaints.


I appreciate you asking. Cuz nobody ever asks. Nobody cares about me. Nobody,


I think I think everywhere in the country these days, it's super hot super human. So yeah, here in Memphis it is. It is the same. I can report


Oh, yeah. On the Spot Weather woman right there. Right? That's right. Call it hot. All right, for the listeners out there, before we get into a conversation with a AZO, and all of the Mad technology and stuff that you guys do for customers to help them succeed. Give us a little background on who Casey is.


Sure, yeah. So I am our Director of Engineering and Operations at AZO. So AZO, Memphis, services, all of those customers in the US and Canada. And I'm in charge of making sure that all of our projects at the end of the day, go well, and hopefully our customers are happy, and we have solved their problems.


This just popped into my head that you. So in you and your team, it doesn't really matter the size of the project, you guys can pretty much handle small one offs to bigger type of engagements. Is that Is that accurate?


Yeah, that's right. So our products are anywhere from, you know, a single piece of equipment to a fully automated new production plant. So any sort of product size is in our wheelhouse.


Let's see, when we were talking offline, which we had, we had a lengthy conversation offline listener. So just definitely not. But when we were talking offline it it's it's really interesting from, from my perspective, the material handling business itself, right? Because I think personally that we just take it for granted me and many others just realized that handling materials is not in our forefront of our knowledge. Can you sort of just sort of summarize a little bit about AZO, the company itself?


Sure yeah, so AZO does design systems for bulk ingredient handling system. So that's primarily powders, but also a little bit of liquid handling. And we are there to help customers really bring their production goals to fruition, right to the point right to the point of processing, typically. So whether that's extrusion or mixing or something like that, we are taking inbound materials from trucks, real cars, drones, sacks, whatever it is that you get your product, your product, and you're storing them, weighing them batching them and feeding a production line.


Like that. So I can just come to a zone, knock on the door and say, Hi, I've got a manufacturing facility and and it looks like this, whatever this is, and I and I can say, hey, I'm interested in putting a new line in. Could I also say that I've got an existing line, and I want to make it more efficient. You guys are handling that today?


Absolutely, yeah. And for that matter, you can also tell us, I'd like to make a thing. And we can tell you. And I'd like for you to tell me how my production facility should look. And we'll help you with that as well. And we do engineering studies all the time, to that effect.


So with that said, You're looking at trends, you have conversations all the time, I would imagine it and because ASIO is a global company, you have conversations around the world. And so you're able to sort of have really interesting insights, help the listener understand sort of some of the changes that are taking place in the market, from a material handling perspective.


Sure, yeah. So a lot of the technologies that we use are mature, but the way that we use them are changing. And so one of the things that's really coming, becoming more and more important to our customers and to us, is maintenance and accessibility of that equipment. So that requires quite a bit of pre planning in the design phase that maybe folks didn't necessarily do in the past. It requires thinking about just


I gotta interrupt. Sure, that just blows my mind. It just blows my mind that that this is sort of a trend that's happening today, that accessibility is is sort of a conversation that you're taking. That's happening continue. I'm sorry, I had just Yeah.


So I mean, it was it was very common, I think in the past that that really in the project phase, you would get something that works. That works theoretically and is going to work for the process and can be installed. It's not that it cannot be installed. It certainly can be and has been for decades. But now we're asking the question early on, hey, what does it going to look like to maintain this valve or this piece of equipment? And kind of what happened in the past quite a bit was you get in the field and you would See this foul, 40 feet in the air with a bunch of equipment below it. And it you know, the maintenance teams would scratch their heads after the at the end of the day and cuss out the engineers in the process and say, why don't you put that there? You know. And I think these days, we're really making an effort, especially at our team days of making sure that we are thinking about that maintenance and accessibility really early in the design phase. And if there's something that we just can't make work that's super accessible, we say, hey, you know, this is one piece of equipment that maybe he's going to be difficult to maintain. Are you willing to sign up for that? Or do we need to have a different solution from different pieces of equipment or something like this? Yeah. But


see you even what I'm hearing is that these conversations have to occur upfront, it's better, don't don't do it at the end of the whole, you know, project, you do it upfront. And, and that's what I hear. But still even the analogy that you provided about that Valve being 40 feet in the air above equipment, and and, you know, yeah, it works, I guess. But from a maintenance perspective, I'm not going to, I don't want to do maintenance on it. I just so there's this asset that that's not getting the attention, it probably needs a little bit. Exactly right. But but you can still, even if it's a, even if it's a situation, and I'm feeling aligned to you, because I know that you guys are having this conversation, even if it's like, hey, we can't, we can't do what we would like here on this asset. But I think you're probably saying we're going to do as much as we can to get it to the point where it does work.


Yeah, that's exactly right. And sometimes that means, you know, building a little catwalk, you know, where you wouldn't, wouldn't necessarily have have planned one before. Yeah, that that walk is is way cheaper and easier to design. If you are thinking about that, you know, early on in the design, before anything's ever installed, then if you look at it later, and you just scratch your head, once it's all installed, and say, Well, how are we gonna get to that? You know, and that just requires a lot of forethought. So our teams are really trained and asking that question, really upfront, and really taking on an owners mentality and saying, Okay, well, this isn't an asset that's going to be used during commissioning, right? This is massive, it's going to be used, hopefully for a couple of decades. So you can't have a mindset that really is geared towards the first six months or the first year, the first two years, you're gonna have a mindset for how you know, how's this going to work for the next 20 years? or 40 years?


Yeah, you don't want somebody to just back up the truck and dump it and say, good luck. Yeah, have at it. Yeah. And then of course, the PN IDs get all out of whack, because now they're trying to figure out what to do. And it sure is, like, you keep on pulling on that string and everything gets all


the things work on a P&ID, okay, it's all the things that aren't on the P and ID that go into functionality, right?


Everything is in a P&IDs, everything. And then it gets stuck over the side right over there. And it's like, nobody ever looks for it. That's exactly right. Yeah. Sad. But true, most definitely. So with all of that said, that's all great. And what I'm hearing is that, hey, listen, or have the conversation up front, it's important, have this back and forth dialogue, to nail down the design. And so that, so you have less headaches going forward, and then, you know, and have that mindset that that the acid is going to be around for longer than a year. Let's put it that way. Yeah, so that's good. I like that. What other challenges like I've heard through the grapevine? I haven't I've had conversations like this all the time, from an organism, an organizer, zation. We're dealing with resource issues. Tell us how ASO is sort of addressing the realities of the marketplace. From up Sure.


Yeah, so one of the things that we're seeing a very high demand for is a higher level of automation. And that is, you know, a lot of people in the past. What about automation? If it made sense, right? If it made financial sense to do that, if you could, you know, use fewer operators to do the same thing and over time, your capital investment for, for the automation more than paid itself off, because you had some labor savings, and that's great. These days, you still have those conversations, but you also are having additional conversations that say, even if we wanted to staff this with with a bunch of manual labor and our plant operators, we can't find those people. And even if we can find them, we can't retain them and if we can retain them, we can't train them well enough. The the cost of attrition is very high. And so it's less of a conversation about like, does it make financial sense to automate and more of a conversation about, we got to automate as much as we can, because the labor is not available in the market to staff, our plant. And that's a real conversation.


You're definitely paid, you know, a reality out there that exists. And I agree, I, I don't see other, I don't see how companies cannot automate as much as possible, which then begs the question, I've got, I've got existing assets, it's always great if I can plan upfront and do a nice, Greenfield type, but I'm, I've got existing assets, and I'm still having problems with, can you go in and identify ways of automation with an existing line? Or just try to figure that out? Because that's,


I mean, it always depends on the equipment and the setup. And the limitations, you know, each plant has really a different set of limitations, you know, but I would say for us and for for many of our competitors as well. That's that's always a good challenge, right? How can we make the system more reliable? How can we automate it? How can we make it simpler? Or? Or if the question is different? How do we get more out of it? How do we get more throughput out of this? Are the ways we can and that happens both in both in equipment, of course. But it also happens in the way that you use it, you know, optimizing, for example, batch sizes, optimizing your shift schedule, you know, what, what are some ways that we can really optimize the way that production is using the equipment? Not just what are the ways that we can make the equipment better and more efficient? I think that's always a question.


Yeah, it's not a pencil whip type thing you've got to this is this is serious analytics, where you're going to have to look at it and, and identify the, the, what is plausible, you know, but again, but again, through communications, through conversations through planning, I think it's all it's all achievable in some way, shape, or form, is it you can have the conversation around, this is the best we can do. Because this arm doesn't do this. And this, this flap doesn't do that. But this is the best we can do. And we've, we've increased this, we've reduced this, whatever it might be, but also, also you have conversations around safety. Right?


Yeah, absolutely. So that's another kind of big topic that folks are talking more and more about. Yeah. It's always been important. You know, I don't want to don't say that safety hasn't been important. It certainly has been. But more and more, we're getting more conversations around ergonomics and safety. And those conversations used to be about just big topics, you know, let's make sure our plant or our silo doesn't explode. You know, that's a very basic dust hazard calculation. Right. But a lot of folks in our industry have had conversations about before, for very good reasons. You know, I don't want to joke about that. It's a very serious, it's serious business, you know, for anybody who, who knows about the industry. But these days, we're having a lot of conversations about is this the right operating height for dumping station, that if you do have an operator, he's going to have to dump that bag 20 times. And it's better to have it at, you know, one meter tall than 1.2 meters tall. And that makes a big difference in that repetitive motion and risk for injury risk, I should say. So really making sure that that ergonomic and safety conversation, again, happens way up front in the design process. It's very hard to do that. After the fact there are some things you can do some retrofits that you can do some platforms you can build and things like this. But really the best time to have that conversation is way up front in that design phase, you know, how are we going to make it accessible? How are we going to maintain it? How are we going to make it safe? Is it going to be at a height that people can maintain it well, and people can use it well can operate the equipment on a day to day basis? Well and safely without moving.


And that also bodes well for employee retention. I'm not saying that's the panacea that everybody's trying to figure it out. But if you make the environment if you've designed that, the ergonomics around that individual and making that little bit easier, just make sense.


Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah, employees are much more likely to work in a place that values their their safety, right and not just their safety, but their butt. their quality of life. Yeah, and see all the time, you know, folks who are doing more manual jobs, if you know, doing it for five minutes is one thing and doing it for five years or something else and doing it for, you know, for 1520 30 years is something else again, you know, that's hard on your body. And that repetitive motion is a serious thing. So anything you can do in the engineering phase, to really have that operator in mind. They're going to thank you for later and then hopefully, that operators more likely to stick around and provide value to our customer base as well.


I love that long term as like long term vision associated with the asset long term vision associated with the valuable resources that are needed to run the facility. So at Aso, are you looking at any new technology that then that's the one thing that's happening out here in the market is that there's a lot of innovation going on? And it's happening real fast, really super fast? I can't keep up with it. I just have conversations around it. But you know, it's happening fast. Are there things that that AZO looking at just from a from an innovative technology perspective?


Sure, there's a couple things. So one, one thing that we've started using recently, and that a lot of folks have been using recently is virtual reality. So we obviously use 3d modeling to design our equipment and to put it into plants and make sure customers can see it in in the best way possible. Up front, but the next step to that is using VR for them to really visualize it, it's something different looking at it on your computer screen than it is to really walk through a plant and be able to see in in, in scale, hey, how far away is that thing? You know, it doesn't make sense, the way things are put together. So these days, we're doing in several of our engineering studies, we are doing the modeling, and then we are augmenting that experience with VR. So our customers can put on glasses, they can walk through the plant themselves, they can say, oh, okay, how does this work? How does it look in real life? Or in virtual life? And how are we going to access it? You know, how are we going to maintain it? All those questions are just brought much more to life than in that VR space than it would be or than it has been in the past on a computer screen. So that's one thing.


Yeah, what's the other


the other the other really is using sensor technology to do predictive maintenance, sure, that's been what people have been talking about predictive maintenance for a long time as have we. But most people haven't found a way to do it really well. And, and to do it practically not that not that it's not possible, but possible in practical or in a plant setting are not always the same thing. And so I think people are finding more and more ways to make it practical to do predictive maintenance. One just small example that we're seeing a lot of is, you know, we have a lot of filters in our systems. And it used to be pretty rare that we would see differential pressure sensors on filters. And these days, we put differential pressure sensors on, you know, half or more of our filters and that so you don't just change filters to change a filter, because somebody said, you know, every three months, you need to change your filters, you're changing your filters, because the differential pressure readings, say, hey, you need to change your filters. And that's a that's a real optimization for your plant. That you're at not changing filters unnecessarily spending more money to do that when you don't need to. And be you're finding out you have data associated with that you're finding out real time information related to the optimization of your system that is useful for its productivity, let's say,


you know, it's interesting, because data is data new, I can collect data on anything, pretty much it was slap a sensor of some sort. But the real magic occurs when you can analyze that data in such a way that creates some tactics. Yeah, that that pressure differential is a great example. That's pretty straightforward. It's like yeah, there's back pressure here, whatever it is, and that's not good. You know, you and I can I can make that not good decision.


Yeah. And there's all types of other sensors as well. Yeah, rock sensors and heat sensors and temperature sensors and all kinds of other sensor technology that predictive maintenance.


Yeah, but it's a tsunami of data, you're still going to have to say, That's noise. This is noise. Oh, here's, here's the meat of the, you know, information. And now what does it mean? Well get out there with a wrench and, you know, screwdriver.


And what does it make sense to, you know, what doesn't make financial sense filter? Because you change a lot of filters pretty often, right? But if you have a motor that goes out, you know, once every five to 10 years, you know, or sometimes more than that, you know, doesn't make sense to monitor that motor or not. That's, that's a conversation that you gotta have.


Oh, well, so I've distilled our conversation down to one thing, conversation beforehand. So there, yeah, that's that just. And you know, what's interesting? How many people don't do that? So listener, do that? Plan. Do that.


Do that. Yeah. plan, plan, plan, talk, Doc doc, I know, it takes a lot of time upfront, you know, people are often very quick to say, I want I want fast deliveries. And that's great, you know, that gets Return On Assets faster if you can get a fast delivery. But at the end of the day, if you're looking at an asset that you gotta have a return on for, for longer than, you know, a couple of years, 234 years, spending an extra 234 weeks on the front end to ask all these questions is a well worthwhile investment. And that's what people should think of it as they should think of it as as an investment.


Yeah. Well, you are absolutely spectacular. You're a natural, Casey. So if this whole, this whole thing doesn't work out, you've got a you've got a future in media?


Oh, sure. Sure. Sure. I'll I'll, I'll tell the folks, I'll tell my people


that like, Hey, you treat me well, or I'm going up Bolton over here to media.


Yeah. All right. I got to find a cooler hat. I think to go into media


you do. It's not about branding. It's all about image, you know, that's what it is. Hey, how do people get a hold of you? They're saying, yeah, she's cool. I want to talk to Casey, how do they get a hold of you?


They can always reach out to me on LinkedIn. My name is Casey King, I am on LinkedIn. Or they can always reach out to me, of course, he email or phone reached out to us on And my information is always there. LinkedIn is probably the best place to


just say, I've just sent you a friend request, Casey, just FYI, I don't all right. Don't ghost connection, connection. That'll bring your connections up to 279.


Yeah, I'm a big LinkedIn user, as you can tell. Yeah. That's what you get with an engineering professional. Right. My job to maintain high levels of LinkedIn connections. Yeah. My sales folks are trying to get me to engage more. So I'm trying to, you know, to force


push people to they'll pepper Yeah. All right. You're absolutely wonderful listeners, we're going to have all the contact information for Kc out on Industrial Talk. So fear not, you'll be able to connect with her. We're going to be right back.


You're listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.


How about that for a conversation? Thank you, Casey for saying yes. And, and coming on Industrial Talk and sharing your massive insights into what's taking place today. So the material handling solutions that are out there. And again, I just recommend that if you ever have an opportunity to go visit a facility that is handling material, you will be amazed. And you will just sort of not take for granted on how these professionals provide incredible solutions to be able to do that safely, of course, but I think the salient point that I got from the conversation with Casey is that do it upfront, have this conversation upfront? And I guess that's just with anything, have it upfront before you really start to venture into it? All right. Go out to Industrial Talk connect with me, because your story needs to be told. Does real Be bold? Be brave, dare greatly. I say it all the time and I mean it. Hang out with Casey and you will be changing the world. We're going to have another great conversation coming from a AZO shortly.

On this episode of Industrial Talk, we are chatting with Casey King with AZO about maintenance accessibility, ergonomics and safety in your material handling solution. 
Scott MacKenzie

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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