With a need to remain competitive on a global market, and facing a critical labor shortage, factory automation is manufacturing’s best option to meet growing business challenges.
I personally am a huge advocate of Built-in American. When many of us think about the hay day of American manufacturing, the images that spring to mind are of the mid-twentieth century, when the post-war economy led to a boom in industrial activity.
The world has changed a lot since then and from my personal experience the last 25 years. As developing countries around the globe have improved their infrastructure, they’ve successfully positioned themselves as new centers of industry and manufacturing. New technologies have emerged that change the way factories operate, allowing for advanced assemblies of even the most complex components. And these trends have led to a shift in the labor market, where a lack of training and misaligned cultural perceptions about manufacturing jobs have contributed to a skills gap in the workforce.
Fortunately, advanced factory automation offers a solution to these challenges on numerous levels. High tech automation solutions can increase output, compensate for the lack of trained workers, and improve production quality at every step of the supply chain. And all this contributes to a strengthened manufacturing industry that allows businesses to be more competitive on the global market. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Manufacturers currently face a labor shortage in skilled jobs which higher rates of factory automation could mitigate.
It’s not hard to find headlines about the decline of American manufacturing jobs but one distinction these news stories often fail to make is that between unskilled labor—the kind that is often replaced by automated assembly lines—and skilled labor—such as electrical technicians, mechanical toolmakers, machinists, and controls engineers who are needed for complex manufacturing jobs.
In fact, there is a troubling shortage of workers with these advanced manufacturing skills. This what’s known as a “skills gap,” and it is expected to grow wider as the Boomer generation retires from the workforce. When this happens, it will create significant challenges for manufacturers who will be facing high production quotas without the labor force to complete them—as is already happening in the aerospace industry. One study from Deloitte predicts that by 2028, as many as 2.4 million skilled manufacturing positions will be unfilled.
Many of these jobs can’t be replaced by automation—in part because the jobs themselves are in creating, servicing, and supporting manufacturing robotics and platforms. But advanced automation can make up for some of the shortfalls, especially as machining, electrical automation, and programming technologies become more efficient.
2. Advanced technology will heighten the appeal of manufacturing jobs.
While there are many contributing factors to the skills gap, one of the most difficult to combat has been social perceptions about manufacturing work. Many people view manufacturing jobs as dirty, uninteresting, and easy to replace. With that mindset, it’s no surprise the industry is struggling to attract laborers.
In fact, the skilled jobs available in manufacturing often involve working with advanced machinery in environments where cleanliness is critical to assembly operations. As my colleague, Mike Koziel has said many times “it’s not your grandfather’s factory anymore.” At Eagle, our facilities are clean, bright, and temperature-controlled. In addition, the advanced technologies used in the newest Industry 4.0 automation will enhance the appeal of these jobs by presenting them as the aspirational opportunities they truly are.
3. Factory automation reduces the risk of injury to workers while improving quality output.
Factory automation isn’t just raising the prestige of manufacturing jobs, it’s also contributing to a better work environment for skilled workers, and higher production quality of manufactured goods. Both these achievements are significant markers of industry strength. Manufacturers who want to be known as excellent employers, as well as producers of high-quality products, benefit from incorporating factory automation into their work environments.
4. Factory automation reduces production costs while increasing production output, leading to more competitive business.
Finally, factory automation doesn’t just lead to higher quality products—it also leads to high production volumes, lower costs, and greater market competitiveness. The past decades have seen many countries, particularly in Asia, improve their manufacturing processes sufficiently to compete with American businesses in a global market.
While many American manufacturers have turned to overseas partners to fulfill manufacturing needs in the past, the reduced cost of advanced automation now makes it more economically feasible to bring those jobs back to the United States. Automation is helping these businesses retain a competitive edge in an expanding market.
Make Eagle Technologies part of your solution.
Eagle has a decades-long record of supplying American manufacturers with the high-quality assemblies they need to fulfill manufacturing demand. Ever since we established ourselves in the tool and die industry, we’ve led the way in adopting innovative technologies in our state-of-the-art facilities and developing a dynamic workforce based on a company philosophy of continuous improvement.
Our apprenticeship program has been one of our key strengths, allowing us to train our workforce in advanced manufacturing skills so that they are prepared for careers as toolmakers, electrical technicians, or machinists. We recently added engineering programs to our apprenticeship offering. We believe our apprenticeship program has been foundational to the success of our business, because, alongside advanced automated assemblies, we are also training the workers who will know how to operate and repair them. We are PROUD of our 2021 apprentice enrollment success and we are now at a whopping 37 apprentices going through the program starting this fall.
As industries continue to develop, they need reliable automation partners who can work collaboratively to design complex assemblies that meet every requirement for quality and safety. These are the standards that we at Eagle have devoted ourselves to upholding. If you would like to learn more about how our factory automation solutions can fit your manufacturing needs, contact us today.
Brandon Fuller | b.fuller@EagleTechnologies.com
Eagle Technologies, headquarters in Bridgman, MI