Opportunities for Automation

The Weekly Report – June 20, 2022
How manufacturers can multiply their workforces without adding to the payroll.

Every manufacturer today needs to think about how to use automation to solve the twin challenges of increased demand with a decreasing number of employees.

John Ihrke, one of our automation experts, advises his clients to separate those challenges on the production floor or in the office, rather than looking at the entire company. Are specific tasks especially dirty, dull, or dangerous? Do some tasks yield inconsistent results or of varying quality? Do you have any positions that just can’t seem to stay filled?

Indicators like these may find solutions in automation.

Automation can come in many forms and isn’t just referring to a new robotic cell. Here’s the definition we like to use at Enterprise Minnesota:

“The application of a wide range of technologies, software, and equipment that reduces or eliminates human intervention in both the transfer of data or information within a process and the control or monitoring of a process.”

Savvy manufacturers look for automation to improve safety, quality, and productivity by first understanding that many “process aids” may or may not be off-the-shelf solutions.

John likes to help clients do more with less by using VESSA, key steps in automation through continuous improvement. It stands for Value stream, Eliminate waste, Simplify, Standardize, Automate. It can be a helpful concept for breaking down a production process to remove touches and increase productivity (and quality!).

John notes that “Automate” is the last element in VESSA. “If you automate chaos, you’ll only create more chaos. By reducing waste, and simplifying the work on the line first, manufacturers should become robust enough to consider possible automation actions.”

Employing employees in this process review can be significant, John says. Not only do they know the processes firsthand, but by contributing to the improvement they can be a part of learning to see future improvement opportunities. By showing staff ways to “see lean” you can help all your employees do more with less.

John is one of several consultants at Enterprise Minnesota who are eager to take interested manufacturers through an Automation Assessment, which will recommend possible pathways to improve productivity.

Read more about VESSA in ‘Leaning Into Automation’

Get started with an Automation Assessment

Events Calendar

June 23 – Executive Manufacturing Forum: Maple Grove
Leading Daily for Results – How continuous improvement leadership and communication work together. Exclusive to manufacturers. In-person in Maple Grove.

July 27 – Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement workshop. Exclusive to manufacturers. In-person in Duluth.

August 2 – A Model for Manufacturing Excellence Using ISO 9001
ISO 9001:2015 manufacturing workshop. Exclusive to manufacturers. Online via Zoom.

August 24 – Developing Your Leaders From Within
Actions for turning your current team members into leaders. Exclusive to manufacturers. In-person in Alexandria.

Industry News

CNH Industrial opening warehouse in Willmar industrial park
June 16, West Central Tribune

DEED kicks off Summer of Jobs campaign in Mankato, highlights manufacturing
June 14, Mankato Free Press

Premier Marine moving its headquarters to Big Lake, expected to be operational by September 1
June 14, Assembly Magazine

Food industry leaders seek help maturing startups in next growth leap
June 14, Star Tribune

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