in Vol. 20 - September Issue - Year 2019
Robot Performing a Catch Test Typically performed manually
Two robots blasting with 4 nozzles doing the work of four blast personnel
8 to 1 Productivity Enabler
Robotic Machine Tending
How Empire Abrasive Equipment is poised to dodge the Nation’s growing and most imminent manufacturing issue.
Despite the common misconception, manufacturing in America is thriving and companies are more confident in their future than they have been in generations. With this confidence, however, comes a sobering realization about the challenges ahead. One of the major issues approaching the American manufacturing sector is a labor shortage.
Two company that can sigh with relief, Empire Abrasive Equipment Company in Pennsylvania USA, as well as their sister company Gibson Abrasive headquartered in Indiana, have imbedded a solution in their business and production model. Thanks to their technological achievements and design, Empire and Gibson can look towards the future with excitement as they meet these challenges head on while providing industry-leading abrasive expertise.
Confidence in Manufacturing, Lack of Labor
For generations, we have been hearing that there is a problem with American manufacturing. That companies are not staying in the United States and that manufacturing production is down. However, not only is business good, the industry’s leading manufacturers believe it will only get better.
According to a recent National Association of Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, the industry is seeing a surplus of confidence in the market. Of the 466 manufacturing companies surveyed in the First Quarter of 2019, 89.5% stated they felt either somewhat or very positive about their company’s outlook. This high optimistic rate is in part of a large growing trend. In fact, for 9 consecutive quarters, 91.8% of companies reported record high optimism.
Unfortunately, the confidence in the manufacturing sector has yet to make it to the general American public. In that same National Association of Manufactures’ study, 71.3% cited the inability to find skilled workers as the top challenge facing their industry. They are not wrong. More and more young people (and their parents) see college as their only path to an affordable and livable future and due to this, finding skilled laborers has become a real issue.
Although most Americans understand the importance and have a high appreciation of manufacturing, people are not quite ready to commit to the industry as they once were. According to a Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte study, 83% of the people surveyed believed manufacturing is important to America’s success while only one-third of Americans would not encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. Their reasoning ranges from concerns with job security, sufficient salary, and a perceived lack of career strength.
Clearly the issue in American manufacturing is no longer the ability for companies to thrive, it’s the ability for Americans to update their perception of what a 21st century manufacturing company looks like.
How Empire’s Automation is avoiding this looming problem
Empire Abrasive Equipment Company and Gibson Abrasive Company have incorporated top-of-the-line automation successfully circumventing this growing absence of labor. The efficiency of Empire’s automation emphasizes their commitment to the future by having their machinery increase productivity far greater than if a machine were to be operated manually. This is one of the major ways Empire is essentially anticipating the growing labor trends.
For example, Empire Abrasive’s single automated blasting system can do the job of eight manual blast cabinet machines. Their versatile rotary head blasting system can exceed the work load of up to twelve manually operated blasting machines. With this task effectiveness comes an added benefit in regards to work space. Afterall, if one machine could take the place of 10 or more, that is more cost savings for the company and could allow for better space usage and overall space management.
With this additional space, companies can provide the adequate area needed to focus their attention on advancing their larger goals. For Empire Abrasive, they utilized the additional space to advance their modification subdivision, further casting themselves as a leader in the industry.
Smart design reduces risk
Robotic machine tending and general intelligent mechanical programming have seen and will see a global rise in the coming decades. According to Oxford Economics, "the number of robots in use worldwide multiplied three-fold over the past two decades, to 2.25 million." The report further states, "Trends suggest the global stock of robots will multiply even faster in the next 20 years, reaching as many as 20 million by 2030."
This trend towards intelligent programming could be used to alleviate the economic threat posed by the labor shortage. Empire Abrasive is believing in their state-of-the-art programming by embracing their digital future, which in turn allows for a better product. Empire Abrasive’s equipment is designed by their in-house engineers and programmers to operate with the greatest level of intelligence, further advancing their effectiveness.
As noted in the September 2018 issue of Metal Finishing News, Empire Abrasive Equipment is using data to redesign how shot peening and blast machines operate. Their designs utilize computer-aided and virtual engineering technology and three-dimensional modeling to generate part processing simulations. Due to this technological benefit, Empire’s engineers are able to visualize the space required for all motion. This high level of design can operate so precisely, it virtually eliminates the need for multiple operators, reducing the demand for an operator down to one worker supervising the loading and unloading of material. Dropping this need for more than one technically advanced operator down to a single, basic position is a significant benefit for Empire.
To stay ahead of trends, companies should follow Empire’s commitment to the digital age by completely embedding it into their product. For instance, Empire’s programmers specifically design machines that heighten and make more resourceful even the more routine tasks that would, in previous decades, require more manpower. Their robotics systems can be programmed to load materials, commence blasting or shot-peening with precise, accurate treatment, and follow through with a quick turnaround time. All with just a single individual effectively monitoring the machine. In fact, one operator could effectively monitor multiple machines at the same time. Empire programming customizes their products’ robotics to ensure the blasting process is met with precision unlike any other on the market.
This same dedication applies to even more intricate requests. An example of this was their blasting mechanism designed for a leading brake pad manufacturer, in which their team equipped "smart" technologically advanced oscillators that uniquely move the blasting gun nozzles resulting in a custom-made blasting experience specifically designed for the task allotted. A task that, years ago, required more than one operator has now been reduced to one standard operator and a technologically advanced machine.
This focus on increasing productivity through efficiency and state of the art design is successfully curbing and reducing the labor shortage risk for Empire and Gibson Abrasive. Clearly, the new age of digital technology could benefit any company not prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.
Manufacturing companies have become increasingly worried about their abilities to find skilled laborers despite the fact that the United States is witnessing a huge resurgence of confidence in manufacturing in generations. This constant worry requires preparation from leading manufacturing companies to think about the long-term solutions while still providing industries with above-standard products. Two industry leading companies doing this brilliantly are Empire Abrasive Equipment and their sister company Gibson Abrasive Equipment.
As they anticipated this problem, Empire and Gibson Abrasive Equipment crafted smart, quiet, and clean technology into the backbone of their overall product and business strategy. For Empire, automation technology is not only a solution to a rising national economic and labor threat but a demonstration of their commitment to the shot peening and air-blasting industry as well.
Their automated machines can provide much needed work floor space while completing a task more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Their designs are intelligence-based, going beyond motion control, and have entered the digital age with authority.
If manufacturing companies want to be competitive in America’s 21st century economy, they will need to adapt and meet these growing labor challenges by viewing this labor problem as an opportunity, just as Empire Abrasive Equipment Company and Gibson Abrasive Equipment company have done.