The Role of Employee Incentives in Successful Automation
Think “automation” or “automated manufacturing.” What do you see?
You probably imagine a highly mechanized process. Perhaps there are robots moving production parts from station to station. Chances are, in the immediate mental picture that you summon to envision an automated process, there are no people in view.
Ron Wosel of C&R Manufacturing in Shawnee, Kansas, has a different picture. The hope of unattended production across hours at a time perhaps informed his aims when he first began to explore and embrace automation decades ago. But he soon found a different purpose for automation that has shaped the way he values it now. Unattended production is not the point, he says. In his thinking about automation, the people are very much in view.
Today, the shop routinely does leave some machines running into the night to achieve “lights-out” manufacturing without any staffing present. This is particularly true of the shop’s pallet-pool-equipped horizontal machining centers. But for C&R, this unstaffed production represents a side benefit of having automated systems in the shop. The main benefit of automating is realized while the lights are still on. Mr. Wosel—along with his adult children Andrea and Brian, who have also moved into leadership of the company—sees automation principally as a means of enabling employees to do more. Continually expanding the amount of production that employees can oversee has allowed the company to grow in output while keeping its staffing small.
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