Factories of the Future

By Madeline Martin on Monday, October 25, 2021

Arkansas is brimming with state-of-the-art facilities that are redefining industries and how things are made.

The Coolest Conveyor Belts & Systems at Hytrol


In January, Hytrol announced that it will invest more than $20 million to open an advanced manufacturing operation in Fort Smith. Hytrol is a world leader in the material handling industry — think conveyor systems and robotics. In partnership with RMH Systems, Hytrol began using The Silver Line system which uses seven robots to bend sheet metal, laser-cut holes, weld parts together and more. This innovative technology cut their production times down.

Machines of the Future

Tyson Foods Inc., based in Springdale, is a nationwide leader in the food industry and on the cutting edge of manufacturing. In their production lines, Tyson Foods Inc. utilizes Soft Robotics AI technology that can maneuver their mGrip robotic grippers with human-like hand-eye coordination. From packaging foods to detecting product defects — these robotics can do it all. Thanks to this innovative AI software, Tyson Foods Inc. is more efficient and precise than ever.

One of the cool new technologies that have been introduced at the facility is a robotic palletizing unit that can outsource the tedious job of building pallets, which allows human workers to move up in their career and get training on how to run the robotics.

Hass Automation

Haas Automation is the largest machine tool builder in the United States, and one of the largest builders of CNC machines in the world. Their state-of-the-art facility in southern California is where the products are made and then distributed through more than 170 locally-owned Haas Factory Outlets, including one in Little Rock.

Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne to Unite

Jacob Slaton

The Camden area will experience new jobs and expansion as Lockheed Martin acquires Aerojet Rocketdyne in a $4.4 billion merger. They each produce military hardware like Lockheed's Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and Aerojet Rocketdyne's solid rocket motors. The companies have seen an increase in military contracts and this merger will allow them to better meet those demands.

Nucor Steel’s New Specialty Cold Mill Complex

Following a halt during the pandemic, Nucor Steel Arkansas’ new mill in Hickman is expected to be completed by late 2021. The new mill enables Nucor to produce automotive-grade steel, which will mean more products that the company can make for the auto industry. Nucor Corporation is America’s largest steel and steel products producer with around 27,000 employees working at 25 steel mills and more than 300 operating facilities in North America. Nucor operates four facilities in Arkansas, making Mississippi County one of the largest steel-producing counties in the United States.

Modern Food Manufacturing at Gerber

The Gerber Products Company, (yes, that Gerber), is expanding its manufacturing facility in Fort Smith and adding a new product line.

Over the next five years, the company will be investing $30 million into the facility through the addition of new food manufacturing and food processing equipment that will help it continue to produce baby food purees, Gerber Graduates Meat Sticks and infant cereals.

Gerber has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2022—another testament to their future-minded production.

L’Oreal Makeup Plant

Jacob Slaton

The nearly 800,000-square-foot facility in North Little Rock creates many recognizable beauty products including face powders, eye shadows, mascaras, lip glosses and nail polishes for Maybelline New York, L'Oréal Paris and Essie. The plant is also committed to lessening its environmental impact by using a nearby hydroelectric plant for its energy and using solar power to provide about 10% of the power to the factory.

Innovating Armor, Optics & Beyond at CoorsTek

CoorsTek, a leading engineered ceramics manufacturer, announced an additional expansion to facilities in Benton in April. The company completed a $26 million expansion at the Benton facility in 2020, and the upcoming expansion will allow them to further support the defense and aerospace industry. Their innovations in aerospace, defense, optics, imaging, propulsion and propulsion control components puts it on the forefront in that industry alone — but it’s also innovating in transportation, medical, agriculture, energy, electronics and so much more! CoorsTek’s expansion in Arkansas opens more opportunities for skilled trades jobs in the coming years.

A Geologic Formation Rich in Essential Minerals

The Smackover Formation’s underground brine, a major global source of bromine, will now be mined for another critical mineral — lithium. Standard Lithium, a Vancouver based tech developer, is teaming up with Lanxess Corporation to set up the lithium plant, and they even invented a modern process called “LiSTR” that reduces extraction time significantly. This lithium will be used for batteries that are essential for pollution-reducing electric vehicles as well as iPhones, tablets and laptops.

A Wood Pellet Plant Helping Save the Environment

Drax Group, a biomass production company headquartered in Monroe, Louisiana, announced in May its plan to build three “satellite” wood pellet plants in Arkansas, with the first to open in October in Leola. Biomass pellets are made from sawmill residue and contribute greatly to global decarbonization efforts by allowing electric companies to reduce their dependence on coal and provide new sources of safe, reliable and affordable power.