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Stepping into the Future: The Discovery of Automation

Automation is not a dirty word; use it to make your business better

In the world of manufacturing today, one thing is painfully obvious: There aren’t enough qualified people to hire at a salary level that allows for-profit margins to be maintained in a competitive environment. Companies are being forced to educate and train almost every person who applies for a position at their business. Once the person is trained, they immediately put their new skills on the open market, and they are gone. Or, is there another way to approach the problem and get more out of the people you already employ?

One of the country’s largest and most prestigious manufacturers of ACM panels was in this very predicament. Although they are situated in a large metropolitan area, Nashville, Tennessee, this manufacturer had to struggle to find anyone who was even somewhat trainable in the making of modern exterior façade panels. They were growing and expanding in multiple markets but couldn’t find enough qualified and experienced people.

Then they discovered automation. Their panel department consisted of three horizontal CNC panel routers, a half dozen bending tables, and 12 people to keep up with the demand for architectural ACM and MCM panels. With guidance from an industrial engineer, they were able to modify their existing workcell down to two CNC panel routers by introducing new technology and innovative designs in manufacturing, incorporating an automatic loading system, and adding chain-driven panel folding machines to fold the returns on their panels. These additions reduced floor space by over 50%, reduced employees required to 7, and increased capacity by 200% while increasing the quality of the finished panels.

As they became more accustomed to the new equipment, they realized that the vertical orientation of the CNC panel routing table meant less bending over for the operator, so he was more rested and made fewer mistakes. The chain-driven panel folding machines meant no repetitive squeezing of hand tools that required employees to be rotated out of the workcell to prevent injury. The full-length continuous bends meant faster processing and a better-quality bend. The extra floor space made it possible to add more new equipment in another department. Increasing their product offering in this department spurred more growth.

Better quality, higher production, a reduction in work-related injuries, and enough extra floor space to expand another department and add more capacity to the company. All from one conversation with a trained industrial engineering professional from a supplier who recognized that being a partner is better than being a vendor.

New technology abounds in the world today. Use it to make your business better. Use it to make your valued employees into super-effective team members. Automation is not a dirty word. Automation aims to make people more productive, in a safer environment, than was possible without it. But, don’t forget that technology without guidance is a huge waste of time and money. Talk to a professional who treats you like a partner, not a customer.

Raymond Smith

Raymond Smith

Joseph Machine Company

Raymond Smith, director of business development for Joseph Machine Company, has been working with fortune 500 companies like Walt Disney, Pella, Anderson, Oldcastle Building Envelope, Marriott, and medium to small businesses like Pattison Sign Group, APCO Sign, and others to improve plant design and improve overall efficiency for over 35 years. Ray can be contacted at 717-342-3442 or [email protected]

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