ACC invests in work safe robotics

An RSM checkpoint, where the volume timber on a logging truck is scanned.

ACC’s Impact Investment Fund has taken a share in Tauranga-based company Robotics Plus, with the goal of improving the wellbeing of workers in dangerous industries.

Robotics Plus is the first successful opportunity for ACC’s new Impact Funds, which aims to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of New Zealanders and provide a strong investment return that helps Kiwis pay less in levies for accident cover.

ACC’s investment sits within the target range of $2 million to $15 million.

Robotics Plus co-founder and chief executive Steve Saunders welcomed ACC on board as an investor.

“It’s great to have ACC investing in Robotics Plus alongside the continued support of Japan’s Yamaha Motor Co.,” says Steve.

“The investment will help us accelerate the development of our advanced technologies that help solve complex global problems, including robotic log scaling technology, as we scale up rapidly and enter new markets internationally whilst providing solutions domestically.”

The technology

Robotics Plus’ technology is designed to keep forestry, agriculture and transport workers safe.

Its innovations include a Robotic Scaling Machine that can quickly and accurately measure the volume of timber on logging trucks, eliminating what is a dangerous manual task at ports, forestry sites and sawmills.

ACC data shows that log handling is a major cause of workplace injuries – last year there were 17,000 active claims costing $75 million.

Mt Maunganui-based port logistics company ISO Limited, which handles more than half of New Zealand’s log exports, has recorded no injuries or fatalities in log scaling since installing 11 RSMs at its sites throughout New Zealand.

Improving workplaces

The move has also allowed workers that were doing this task manually to move into higher skilled positions.

“It’s safer and more productive than the previous manual system used throughout the world which requires people to manually scan and measure the logs by climbing on to trucks and trailers to perform the task,” says ISO chief executive Paul Cameron.

The technology is among a suite of innovative projects Robotics Plus has developed, including robotic fruit packers that reduce the musculoskeletal strains and injuries associated with repetitive manual tasks, and robots capable of a variety of tasks in horticulture. 

The RSM, developed in collaboration with ISO, led to Robotics Plus being listed on Robotics Business Review’s top 50 most transformative companies in the global robotics sector in 2020.


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