Cobotics are a current hot topic in the Metal Working Nation. Innovation within the AI spectrum is opening new doors and possibilities for manufacturing leaders who are willing to embrace change. Guest speaker, Craig Zoberis, shares his “Aha!” moment when he realized cobots could help him create a more efficient and life-giving environment to his team. His passion for innovation and the power of the cobotic ecosystem led him to create his own cobotics production line - empowering the Metal Working Nation to perform at their absolute best.
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Growing up working at his father’s manufacturing business, Craig entered the industry as a college graduate with a wealth of knowledge and familiarity. Starting his own business focused on assembly, he eventually recognized the need for in-house machinery. Wanting maximum control of his own schedule as well as his team’s, Craig began researching the impact that cobots can have on improving efficiency and helping to close the skills gap. Encouraged by his team to pursue a future in cobotics, he began implementing them into his workforce. The impact was so powerful that Craig and his team at Fusion OEM were inspired to create their own line of cobotics.
Collaborative robots - cobots - are designed to operate around people and often with people. Not only can they help you eliminate the menial tasks that take up your team’s valuable and limited time, but they can also help keep integration and employee turnover costs low. Cobots are easily taught by those working in their space. There is no need for a cobotics consultant to train it in every new function. Using cobots to fulfill repetitive and menial work frees up your team to focus on areas of work that require their expertise - allowing them to grow in their knowledge and application instead of being bogged down by time-consuming tasks.
Craig explains that knowing where and how to utilize cobots can be overwhelming to those who are first installing them. He encourages listeners to focus on the jobs on the shop floor that are dull, dirty, or dangerous and to begin implementing cobots in those tasks. Cobots are especially helpful in highly repetitive work because they don’t slow down or speed up as a human would throughout the day. The consistent speed and functionality of the cobot allows for more predictable output timetables and eliminates the dull work that keeps your team tied. Deburring, polishing, sanding, quality inspection, sensing, and making/recording measurements are all tasks that a cobot can accomplish - freeing you and your machinists to focus on what really matters.
Training up the new generation of manufacturing leaders and machinists is incredibly important, especially when considering the huge portion of the current manufacturing labor force that is made up of baby boomers. Planning for the turnover that comes with retirements can be made smoother by implementing cobots into your workforce. While training new employees, cobots can cover tasks left by retired machinists and keep your output steady. Cobots also allow you to put more time and energy into training new employees and seasoned team members in new skills. The skills gap dilemma doesn’t have to slow your business. Using cobots can not only help you close that skills gap but make your production time more efficient while doing so.
Jumping into cobotics implementation and utilization can be intimidating. Craig encourages listeners to take small steps and to familiarize themselves with what the cobotic ecosystem is all about. Visiting manufacturing shops and production lines that use cobots will allow you to see for yourself what they can accomplish. Find easy wins for cobotics within your own workforce. Test out cobots on jobs that you know you could use them in. Cobotics is a paradigm shift, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Chip away at the automation transition and watch your business grow!
Change in manufacturing is an inevitable and exciting necessity that Jim and Jason are ready for the Metal Working Nation to embrace and experience. Even though the industry has a history of sticking with what has worked for generations, it is now time to invest in the future by equipping and inspiring manufacturing leaders and teams to educate themselves on the progress of technology and process. Guest speaker, Drura Parrish, the president of Xometry Supplies, shares his manufacturing story and how leaders can take small steps towards big change for their businesses.
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Growing up in the manufacturing world, Drura noticed that his grandfather’s business philosophy was built more upon hope in the future than on making that future himself with the manufacturing tools he owned. The machines that spent their lives unused - waiting for the “big deal,” caused Drura to question the processes in place. However, when he came back after college, he went to work for his grandfather and learned the important lesson of knowing when to ask why you are doing something before you set out to do it. Accepting a process because it has “always” been used isn’t a good enough reason to keep on using it. Be sure to listen to the episode for Drura’s personal experience in learning to ask “Why?”
It’s all about leadership. Drura explains that in many machine shops, the leader is often the one with the most expertise and experience in a specific field. But is that the way it should be? In today’s modern manufacturing world, everyone is an expert at something. People need leaders, but they don’t necessarily need a leader who is well-versed in every aspect of the manufacturing business. Instead, the leader needs to be the one asking questions - asking, “Why are we doing it this way?” Drura believes that it is the responsibility of the 21st-century manufacturing leader to instill in their team the mindset that the customer is always right and to provide the training their team needs to accomplish serving their customers well. Outdated software? Toss it out. Equip your people; instill in them a positive, service-minded attitude, and trust your people to produce a quality outcome.
Do your people know how to identify good technology? Drura explains that in a world that is saturated in options and new technology, it is vital that your team understand what makes good technology and what makes a good process. Jason and Jim both agree that while it is difficult to begin setting aside time in your business’s schedule for training and education of the team, it is essential to your company’s future success. Technology must be taken seriously in today’s manufacturing world.
What educating a manufacturing team looks like will depend on the individual business, the people, and the goals of the company. For smaller shops, it may be investing in one individual at a time instead of collectively training in new technology. For very large businesses, it could mean taking another, smaller shop under their wing and helping guide them in good business acumen. The idea is to promote in the Metal Working Nation an attitude of growth and effective change. When progressive change is made, take the time to celebrate!
Jim, Jason, and Drura all know that change in manufacturing can be a slow process. But small progress is better than no progress! Drura suggests setting aside 1% of your time as a leader and business to invest in education. As your team explores the latest innovations in their area of expertise, they will grow in their own skills - making your business more efficient. Spending time training actually saves you time as a business in the long run. Equip your people. Inspire them to always be asking “Why?” Start with 1%, and grow from there. Change is the pathway to future success.
Are cobots the future of your manufacturing business? Collaborative robots can share the same space with your employees and help you automate the processes and systems that keep tying up your team’s time and energy. Guest speaker, Elias Serruya shares his passion for innovative thinking and why a future of cobots may just be your manufacturing dream-come-true.
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Elias shares his story of pursuing the future in innovation and automation while climbing the ladder at his father-in-law’s manufacturing company, EJ Basler. Beginning as an engineering intern, he quickly learned the ins and outs of the trade and made note of where processes could be made more efficient. Always asking the question, “How could this be made better?” Elias found his passion realized in building and implementing cobots and robots.
Elias explains that the automation offered by robotics and cobotics is mechatronics - the combination of mechanical and electronic systems. Mechatronic automation covers all the bases for a machine shop by combining software, mechanics, mathematics, chemistry, the cloud, and electronics for a truly all-encompassing automated system. As manufacturing leaders understand, time is money - and the more time their employees can spend on the tasks that require their expertise and less on the menial busywork - the better.
Elias unpacks the differences between robots and cobots and why cobots are a financially savvy investment for your manufacturing business. Unlike robots, cobots don’t need their own designated space with safety lines and regulations. Cobots (collaborative robots) share the same workspace as your employees and interact directly in your employees’ environment. Because they don’t need their own floor or taped-off space, and because they can’t hurt humans in their operations, there is no need to spend money and resources on building a separate and safety-ensured space on your shop floor. Cobots are slower in their movements and don’t have the huge amount of velocity behind them that regular, mechanical robots possess. If you touch a cobot outside of the designated process, they turn off. They are built to work with you - not overpower you.
Are cobots for everybody? Elias explains that while the role of the cobots might change, they are useful in both low and high-production manufacturing businesses. A good strategy for both types would be to locate where you need to automate within the business. Where is time being wasted or being used inefficiently? What jobs - if freed up - could make room for greater growth and progress? Inspection and processing parts could be done by a cobot instead of your employees, allowing them to focus on work that requires their skill and expertise.
Elias shares the processes he uses to know where to implement automation within EJ Basler. Watching company costs is an extremely helpful way to see where your manufacturing team could benefit from the help of cobots. Taking a walk through your shop floor can also provide insight into identifying where processes could be made more efficient. If you are struggling with finding good hires, then using a cobot to make up the difference will save your team countless hours and headaches.
Cobots are trained by recording points in space - through logging specific conditions that build the logic of a certain job. Once all the steps have been taught to the cobot, it can carry out its task. For jobs that require unique grippers or handling parts, new grippers and tools can be 3D printed or made for the cobot. Even though cobots are serving in the role of automation, their workflow is in the hands of you and your team. Not comfortable with just one master controller? Use several for each part of the process so that you can have the flexibility of updating and controlling just one aspect of the job at hand.
Elias explains that automation is not only useful to your team - it’s attractive to your clients. When customers see that you are trying to keep up with the times, be progressive, and constantly improve, they will be more trusting and impressed by your diligence to keep on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology. The robotics industry is only growing, and those that want to keep up in the Metal Working Nation need to be thinking about how they can be progressive. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for examples of how Elias has used cobotics at EJ Basler and why cobots might need to be the next big step for your business.
Business automation can seem like an intimidating change, but the benefits are massive. Guest speaker, Paul Van Metre - president of Pro Shop ERP, shares how letting go of control can help grow your company and make it vastly more efficient. Automating your systems can help clear up communication, save you and your team energy and time, and help boost your profitability. Change can be daunting, but an automated system is definitely worth the cost.
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Some may think that there are too many barriers to push through to make business automation worth it. Paul explains that people fear what they don’t understand and what they don’t know. While such fear is normal, it shouldn’t keep manufacturing leaders from making the switch. The initial expense and time invested in uploading your company’s data may seem like a shock at first, but the efficiency that comes with automation is incredible. Letting go of control could be the best decision you’ve ever made.
The tools you use to automate your business are crucial to your success. Paul gives some examples of automation, including robots for the machine shop floor, apps, and entire manufacturing eco-systems - such as Pro Shop ERP. Paul shares that his company grew out of the need to solve the problems they faced as a start-up. No one offered the software they needed to automate their systems so that they could stay on top of their game and grow with their clients. Pro Shop ERP is the result of Paul’s team’s hard work and innovation. They wanted a way to tie all the details of their business together into one, centralized system. Paul encourages listeners to not be overwhelmed by the nuances of launching an automated system but to rather focus on the big picture: making chips so that you can make more money.
In every small business, there are going to be people who wear too many hats. Inefficiency isn’t something that growing manufacturing businesses can tolerate for long. Miscommunication, confusion, and extended lead time can all be results of outdated processes and the struggle of having to do everything manually - from customer onboarding to running machinery. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday chaos and not realize what could be easily solved through automation. Excel isn’t always going to cut it for logging your processes and keeping track of customer information and accounting. Before Pro Shop ERP, there was automating software to help with the accounting side of business, but there wasn’t anything that was built from the shop floor perspective. Pro Shop ERP offers that perspective in an automated format so that you can focus on what’s important to the growth of your business.
There are so many details to consider when running a manufacturing business, and tools like Pro Shop ERP help take the busywork out of the picture. Jim shares the improvements made to his company through the implementation of automation.
You can automate your sales process as well as your manufacturing processes. Jim shares that he uses Pro Shop even in the initial “interview” with new customers. Since quality communication is one of the pillars of Carr Machine & Tool, Jim likes to show new customers how well Pro Shop allows them to communicate as a team - both internally as a company and externally with their customers. He can also establish trust and openness by showing new customers the automated breakdown of pricing with Pro Shop so that there is no guesswork when it comes to quoting a price.
While there is a good bit of front-end work with uploading and customizing all of the data for an automated system, the end-product is invaluable to the efficiency of your manufacturing business.