May 25, 2021

How can automation alleviate labor shortage problems?

Unemployment is high and businesses are struggling to hire. At McDonald’s, employees are putting slips of paper into bags asking customers to apply for a job. “Help Wanted” signs are increasingly the norm. There is no doubt that finding workers is going to be a challenge for us in the next few years. Our customers are also facing these challenges, with some trying to fill up to 300 open positions.

The good news here is, Adaptec Solutions is in the automation business, which can take up some of the burden. The general outlook we’ve gathered is that everyone is hoping for change after COVID-19, but until unemployment benefits are reduced, the model is changing to automation to alleviate labor shortages in manufacturing facilities. In addition to labor, insurance spikes due to work-related injuries and ergonomic issues are also causing problems for manufacturers. Not to mention the rise of material costs and shortages that have led to unrealistic lead times with accompanying shipping costs.

In the last couple of weeks, we have spoken to several shops that want to install their first robot for machine tending. The recipe is simple: run the machine on a day shift with a CNC operator present, load up the queue before leaving for the day, and let the robot and machine(s) run the rest of the evening and early morning hours. If a customer is running a ten-hour day shift, the robot will produce parts for fourteen hours – lights out.

Your machine and process must be capable of making good parts. We have many low-cost part presentation devices to ensure the cost of ownership is affordable – even for small job shops.

A great benefit of the robot is how easy it is to program, giving owners the flexibility to add more part numbers as jobs come and go. Many times, the robot has extra time to include value-added services like part washing, rp rinse, part marking, deburring, and gaging. Eliminating job functions that qualify as dull, dirty, or dangerous – and converting those to automated solutions – allows employees to train in technical positions that are higher-paying and add more value.

As collaborative applications are on the rise, the ease of use and deployment of cobots uniquely position us with the “4th D” – Distance. Maintaining distance between employees has become essential as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the trend of labor shortage continues to be a problem for manufacturing and warehousing businesses we are excited for the opportunity to work on creative solutions through automation.

We are excited for more opportunities to work on creative automation solutions to alleviate the trend of labor shortages in the manufacturing and warehousing industries.

–Bob Manion, Jim Morris and Whitney Moon

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