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Low Labor Pool Forcing Automation

Investments in technology will enable companies to increase their productivity levels without adding employees.

 by Karen M. Koenig

Increasing numbers of fabricators are being hit with the proverbial double-edged sword. They want their company to expand and take on new business, but they don’t have the volume of employees needed to keep pace with the growing work. Despite running ads in the papers and on the radio, or soliciting job prospects from training schools, many companies still find themselves coming up short in the labor pool.
Automating processes is one way to combat the low labor pool. Gilway Enterprises, for example (see story on page 26) employs just seven people on the shop floor, yet typically has 150 custom solid surface jobs running through the plant at any given time.The recent purchases of a CNC machining center and an automatic V-groover have enabled this small shop to manufacture and ship its vanity tops within 10 working days. Says company owner Wayne Overton, “Before we had the CNC machine, that made for a lot of overtime and a lot of stressful weeks.”
Ways to increase productivity without increasing employee numbers is a nationwide dilemma. Our sister publication, Wood & Wood Products magazine, recently asked 100 fast-growing woodworking companies to list their top concerns for 2001. Not surprisingly, employee recruitment and retention ranked high on the list, second only to economic concerns.
“With low unemployment in our area, recruiting of quality employees has expanded into other markets. We have to focus our search for skilled, literate, technically-minded people to utilize and maximize our level of technology,” responded one company.

Increasing Productivity

Improving productivity through technology is the theme for the second annual Plastics Machining & Fabricating Conference. Industry experts will be on hand to present a variety of topics, including: training requirements and techniques for working with CNC routers, improved methods for laser processing and optimization techniques for flat sheet cutting. New regulations in welding as well as new developments in adhesive bonding and joining methods will also be presented.
Attendees can also hear first-hand from other fabricators detailing how they maintain high production and profits in today’s economy.
A complete seminar program is available online at Attendees can register for the seminar online or call the Industrial Division Conference Office at (888) 903-9663 to register by phone. I hope to see you there.

Taking the Challenge

As a final technology note, I would like to offer my congratulations to those companies which received the coveted Challenger’s Award for innovative technology at the recent IWF 2000. They include: SawStop for its Safety System for table saws (see Final Cut on page 58 for more details); Giben America for its optimizing, self-positioning PM System for panel saws; IMA America for its MAW-Nottmeyer CNC Drilling System; Southeastern Adhesives for its Protact adhesive; and Raimann USA for its optimizing ripsaw.

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Plastics Machining & Fabricating
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