“This was the first year we participated in the Top Workplaces program, and our inclusion reflects the voice of our employees and their belief in where this company is going,” says Matanya Horowitz, AMP’s founder and CEO. The anonymous Energage survey measures 15 culture drivers in an organization, including alignment, execution, and connection. “More than 80% of our employees provided feedback that contributed to our ranking among similarly sized companies in Colorado,” Horowitz explains.
“Our people at AMP are our most important and valued asset,” says Emilie Kintner, AMP’s head of talent and culture. “That’s what makes our designation as a Top Workplace so meaningful—it reflects the voice of our team. It’s not every day that an organization’s mission aligns so perfectly with the personal beliefs and career goals of its employees.”
Robotics and Recycling
Louisville, Colo.-based AMP applies artificial intelligence and robotics to increase recycling rates and recover raw materials for the global supply chain. AMP’s proprietary AI technology applies computer vision and deep learning to guide high-speed robotic sorting systems to precisely identify and differentiate recyclables by color, size, shape, opacity, consumer brand, and more, storing data about each item it identifies. AMP’s technology can recognize and recover material as small as a bottle cap and as unique as a coffee pod from complex material streams.
Founded in 2014, the company more than doubled headcount in 2020, and employs 130 at three facilities. “When you have a fast-growing workforce, you can’t ‘set it and forget it,’” Horowitz states. AMP implemented ongoing feedback cycles to meet the organization’s needs. In addition to twice-a-year employee surveys, which measure satisfaction on the 1-to-10 Employee Net Promoter Score scale, AMP talks to its workforce face to face. “We hold weekly all-hands meeting and quarterly business updates; employee resource groups and social clubs; a peer recognition program; new employee lunches; and individual development plans and performance reviews,” Horowitz says. AMP will introduce learning and development programs and service-level agreements so employees know their resources. “We want to make it easy to work across the organization so our team can focus on what’s most important—revolutionizing recycling!”
Fast Company picked AMP’s AI platform as a finalist for its 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards. In April, for the second consecutive year, AMP was named to Forbes’ AI 50, a list recognizing North American companies using AI in ways that are fundamental to their operations. For the second straight year, business analytics firm CB Insights has placed AMP on its AI 100, a list of private AI companies spanning 12 countries and 18 industries. In 2020, Fast Company called AMP one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, and recognized Horowitz as one of its Most Creative People in Business.
Labor is a persistent challenge for materials recovery facilities, and many run chronically understaffed, Horowitz notes. “Our technology has helped facilities better manage their employee base by stabilizing their sorting workforce and improving productivity,” he says. One AMP customer retained all of his full-time employees after adding automation, but eliminated temporary positions. The client hired a manager with a background in robot technology and retrained an existing sort-line employee—and paid him more—to help with daily maintenance on the robots.
AMP’s new software, AMP Clarity™, captures data on mixed plastics like PET, HDPE, LDPE, PP, and PS; aluminum recyclables like used beverage cans; and fiber, such as corrugated cardboard and sorted residential paper and newsprint. Material data is collected, classified, and sub-classified, letting MRFs see what recyclables flow through different stages of their operation. “Digitizing the real-time flow of recyclables with precision and consistency, provides opportunities to identify gaps in material capture, transparency on what recyclables are recycled, and a basis for standardized measurement vital to improve our national recycling system,” Horowitz says.
Data capture in MRFs can also influence new facilities’ design, he explains. Better AI for material identification and advanced automation has made it feasible to develop low-volume secondary sortation facilities that are economical to deploy and sustain nationally. “Emerging technologies within packaging can track provenance across a supply chain such as digital watermarks and tracer molecules,” Horowitz says. This data has the potential to, “help forecast the supply of material within the recycling stream and analyze materials across an enterprise or geography.”
Secondary facilities could process and aggregate small volumes of mixed plastics, paper, and metals sourced from residue supplied by primary MRFs. This would create new revenue streams by generating demand for residue that businesses otherwise would have to dispose of at a cost.
Photo courtesy of AMP Robotics. Caption: AMP employees examine equipment at the company’s headquarters in Louisville, Colo.