Lessons Learned from Manufacturers on an Automation Road Trip

Juan Aparicio and the product team took a 500-mile road trip to 4 manufacturing sites to learn about operation pain points. Read the details.

May 2nd, 2023 5 min read

Manufacturers Need Automation Support Fast

During a 500-mile road trip the first week of April, our product team and I had the opportunity to tour four factory sites to check out pain points that robotics can help solve. Starting at the Miamisburg, Ohio offices of our partners at Yaskawa Motoman, we traveled through Ohio and Indiana to our Novi, Michigan office. Over three days, we got to take several eye-opening tours of plastics and metal manufacturing facilities.

It was a privilege to meet with manufacturing leaders and their engineering teams and get a first-hand look at their processes and their factories. We discussed their pain points and how robotics can help.

A map showing the route taken from Miamisburg, Ohio, through Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Novi, Michigan.

What did we learn?

Manufacturers urgently need automation

It’s hard for factory operations leaders to make time to plan for automation. Everyone’s too busy applying bandages to day-to-day problems. Everyone’s fighting hard to keep their factories up and running in the face of ongoing labor shortages and other challenges. But the longer you wait to automate, the further behind you’re going to fall. There’s no better use of your time than collaborating with an automation partner that can get robotic solutions in place right now, like Rapid Robotics. We’ll work with you to identify the best candidates for fast automation, and get a robot working in your facility in just a few weeks. 

Manufacturers are operating in very challenging environments

The demand for automation to produce goods faster, safely, and more predictably is huge. Some factories are critically understaffed, and managers are doing everything they can just to keep lines up and running. But they’re falling behind because they can’t hire operators quickly enough. And workers aren’t staying in low-paying jobs for monotonous, highly repetitive tasks. In fact, one manager we spoke to has had to reduce production because each shift is 25% understaffed. Manufacturers need to deploy automation solutions fast before they fall further behind. And they need experienced robotics engineering partners to make the process easier and faster.

Worker safety is key

One benefit of automation is its ability to improve worker safety. This need came up during some of our conversations with factory managers. Some of them aren’t really looking to reduce labor costs or fill open operator roles. They're concerned about their people doing unsafe tasks manually, and it’s no wonder. Total workplace injuries cost US businesses more than $58 billion every year and many of those injuries are preventable.

One line manager is concerned for the safety of one of his operators who needs to walk inside a blow molding machine that is part of the line. A robotic solution can eliminate that worry.

A worker lifts a large, heavy box over their head onto the top of a palletized stack.

Palletizing is an ideal application for fast automation 

At another facility, 25-lb boxes have to be lifted to the top of a 7-foot high pallet several times per minute for 12 hours a day. To reduce injury rates, the task is rotated between operators every hour. It’s a dangerous palletizing task that could easily be automated in weeks to free up operators for less risky tasks.

Robots can handle almost the entire end-of-line faster, more safely and more precisely than humans. Building, packing, and palletizing boxes are injury-prone tasks that are, frankly, a bad use of precious human employees’ time and effort. And with recent robotic advancements, they no longer have to be done manually. 

You can increase factory efficiencies and give these literally back-breaking jobs to machines. Your shop workers will thank you for it!

Schedule your automation consultation now

Right now is the time to get started with robotic automation. Rapid can help you solve your labor challenges, make your facility safer and more efficient, and help you win new business in just a few weeks. Schedule a free, 30-minute consultation now.

Juan Aparicio

Juan Aparicio, VP of Product

Juan is a robotics and automation enthusiast on a mission to scale and democratize access to robotics technology in manufacturing and beyond. During his career he has brought together the worlds of Industrial Automation, Robotics, and AI with his work featured in the New York Times, MIT Tech Review, Wired, Forbes, TheRobotReport, and other media outlets. Prior to Rapid, Juan was the VP of Product at Ready Robotics, where he launched Forge/OS 5, an award-winning industrial platform for robots and automation. Before that, Juan was the Head of Advanced Manufacturing Automation for Siemens, where he led a top team of researchers and engineers in Berkeley, California, working elbow-to-elbow with renowned academic partners. Juan is a Technical Advisor for the Advanced Robotic in Manufacturing (ARM), a member of A3’s AI Tech Strategy Board, and a Skydeck advisor. In 2019, he was awarded the MIT Tech Review Innovator under 35 Europe in the Pioneer category. In 2020, he was awarded Siemens Inventor of the year and the prestigious Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award.

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