Ted Wilke, Vice President at SPOC Automation, focuses on developing and implementing automation technologies in manufacturing, infrastructure, energy, and the oil and gas industries. Wilke studied mechanical engineering at the University Wisconsin-Madison and has nearly thirty years of experience in the electrical industry. SPOC works to innovate manufacturing efficiencies and automation solutions using inverter technology and measurements in automation.
Host John Sheff is joined by guest Ted Wilke, Vice President at SPOC Automation, to discuss manufacturing automation in the US. Their conversation covers how automation can enable innovation, facilitate better efficiency, and allow the US to compete with overseas factories.
- Automation drives precision, reduces variation, and improves quality.
- With greater quality assurance, efficiency increases.
- Automation does not eliminate jobs; rather, jobs change.
- With automation, jobs are more cognitive and creative than labor-based.
- Modern automation collects from many sources, including the factory floor. This data helps decision-makers determine what adjustments can be made to increase productivity and reduce waste.
- Repeating the same task over and over again is difficult while maintaining the same level of quality. Automation ensures precision on every single action.
- Machines do not need training and do not take days off, eliminating those very human productivity factors.
- Finding properly trained, skilled employees is increasingly becoming a challenge, especially in manufacturing. Automation can help elevate that burden.
- Overseas factories compete mostly on low costs, primarily due to the large workforce of low-wage workers.
- The only way American manufacturers are going to be able to compete is through creativity, efficiency, and innovation. Automation can be a part of that process.
- “[Innovation]’s something that automated robots can’t do: they can’t think, they can’t innovate, and they can’t think of solutions on the spot.”
- The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable manufacturing is to disruption. While eliminating the human element is impossible (and not desirable), automation can allow for manufacturing to continue when personnel are short or need to be reduced for social distancing.
- Similarly, the pandemic led to a lot of reactionary layoffs. Automation allows for more flexibility, helping more people keep their jobs in uncertain times.
- Rehiring is difficult: people do not wait for the economy to pick up, they go work elsewhere. On top of being bad for employees, it is bad for the economy at large.
- To be able to expand manufacturing in the US, automation is necessary. There simply is not enough square footage available, but automation can expand capabilities in the limited space already in use.
- The recent $2.3T infrastructure proposal offers a lot of incentive for manufacturers to invest in green energies.
- Manufacturing requires electricity, and increasingly, that electricity can be supplied by renewables.
- Investing in renewable technology now will make the predicted transition to fully green energy will be much easier.
- Forty percent of US electricity consumption is electric motors. That number will only go up.
- High-efficiency electric motors were once considered luxury items, but costs have come down over the past 15 years, making them the standard.
- Efficiency is key in cutting operational costs. After all, it costs less to save energy than to produce it.
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