Sanford-based robotics manufacturer Mertek Solutions has been named the small business of the year for 2017 by Business North Carolina, a statewide business advocacy magazine.
Mertek Owner Jerry Pedley is featured on the cover of the magazine’s December issue with the title “Mr. Robot,” a reference to his company’s work building robotic solutions to automation issues.
The honor for Mertek and Pedley is the second in as many years. The company was named the N.C. Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center’s Outstanding Business and Industry award winner in 2016.
Pedley is well-known in Sanford and Lee County, particularly for his involvement with local educational and workforce development. He started Mertek in 2010 after selling a similar business, Meikle Automation, which he founded in 1990.
There doesn’t appear to be any online version of the article, but we’ve excerpted a portion:
The work is the same – in a nutshell, making machines that put stuff together faster: Inhalers used to treat asthma. A cutter in a desktop electric pencil sharpener. A car’s intake manifold, the tubes that distribute air coming into the engine. Pedley picks up a woman’s cosmetics case from a shelf in his office and pops open the plastic lid. The case in his palm once took seven people to assemble. Now, it takes one, thanks to a machine made in Pedley’s plant.
To be clear, Mertek isn’t cranking out cosmetics cases or inhalers. Other companies use Mertek’s machines to produce goods. Pedley prefers the word “robotics” to “automation” – it’s more specific than the broad world of automation. A robot today is a bright-yellow arm, house under a protective cube, swinging to pack breath mints at 225 parts per minute. But tomorrow, robotic workers may work alongside human ones. Sensor technology already exists to stop a robotic arm when it brushes against a human one.
Such a sci-fi scenario could be the future at the beige warehouse off U.S. 1 on Sanford’s north side, a corridor in Lee County that includes drug giant Pfizer’s gene therapy plant. Mertek’s nondescript warehouse looks identical to its neighbors but inside in an inventor’s paradise. Truck doors lean against a machine ready to drill holes for a side-view mirror. The latest head-scratcher is a new kind of wall socket slot for ethernet cables – the tiny parts are driving Pedley’s team crazy. But six months from now, he says, those projects will be done, shipped off to plants as far away as India or China, replaced with new puzzles to solve.
Congratulations to Mertek and to Pedley.