Packer 25 2020 — Paul Ramson

Packer 25 2020 — Paul Ramson

Paul Ramson seems hard-wired to find answers.

“I’m a typical engineer — a bit geeky, love to solve problems,” said Ramson, 36, director of solutions architecture with Auckland, New Zealand-based Tomra Food Compac. Ramson joined the company — formerly known as Compac Sorting Equipment Ltd. — 15 years ago, upon completing a bachelor of engineering degree at the University of Auckland.

The lure of the produce business was irresistible, because it provided Ramson with a chance to solve problems for a global market, he said.

“New Zealand is a small country, but we have a habit of batting well above our weight on the world stage,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of an organization that could make a real impact on a global scale.”

Tomra Food Compac provides that opportunity through its focus on improving food packing and production in every major fruit-exporting country, as well as its desire to meet customers face to face, Ramson said.

“I love getting out to a site or tradeshow and seeing how our technology is being utilized and bringing back the best practices and requirements for improvements,” he said.?

Compac has a startup innovation mentality — “Kiwi No. 8 wire, as we call it here,” Ramson says — which means that the company “can react quickly to market challenges, and it’s exhilarating to see an engineering concept or industry solution brought to life and rapidly deployed.”

As a testament to this, Compac received New Zealand’s Most Innovative HiTech Solution for the Agritech Sector Award at the 2020 New Zealand HiTech Awards, Ramson said.

“Our current success is just the start; there is a lot more to come as we work towards engineering the next wave of ‘smart’ and ‘automated’ products,” he said.

Problem-solving and leadership go hand-in-hand, Ramson said, noting that he regularly works with the company’s customers and sales and engineering staff on projects and industry aspects.?

“I would describe my participation — if I have to — as a mixture of guiding and coaching with a good balance between deep technical engineering and the understanding overarching commercial drivers present,” Ramson said.

Projects involve collaborating with a multifunctional team of both internal and external parties, in a “highly competitive environment” to find the right answer for the end user, Ramson said.

The “end-to-end process” of a packhouse is fascinating to Ramson, he said.

“Fruit is so variable, and each customer is unique; numerous scenarios apply for each customer, and therefore multiple solutions exist and while there are many right answers, there is often one that is best for each customer,” he said.?

For Ramson, success is turning those packhouses into efficient and “appropriately automated” environments, he said.

“Over the years with Compac, I have steadily grown the consultative approach we take to engineering projects, from first engagements and gathering the details needed, through to the conception, detailing and delivering of the lines,” he said.

Ramson says he can’t resist complex challenges.

“It’s the complexity of the industry that energizes me and the multitude of challenges that we all still need to overcome,” he said.?

To someone outside the produce industry, fruit seems simple, but that’s far from the reality, Ramson said.

“Every piece of fruit is different, in every market,” he said. “Every customer has a different commercial approach, and as a result each packhouse is unique.”

Ramson compares his job to “a science fiction novel.”

“We always have a number of experiments, prototypes, newly released technology on the go and a question of ‘what should we do next,’” he said.

A key part of leadership is the ability to mentor others, Ramson said.

“I learn every day from customers, competition, aligned industries and my colleagues,” he said.
Ramson says the key challenge in his job is simple: There’s always another problem to solve.

“Ultimately, there are so many commodities and markets with specific pain points that I’d love to solve,” he said.

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