The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 7 months ago

Amplifiers of the workforce: The future of robots in manufacturing w/ Ryan Lillibridge

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Robots have been around since Mamie Eisenhower presided over the White House.

But recent advancements in robotics have helped bring automated workers out of big automotive companies and into mainstream manufacturing.

Are the robots coming for your team's jobs? How should manufacturers determine whether or not to add a robot?

In this episode, Ryan Lillibridge, director of business development at Mission Design & Automation, discusses the impact of robotics in the manufacturing sector.

Here's what Ryan and I talked about:

  1. The biggest changes happening in robotics
  2. How to evaluate when adding a robot makes sense
  3. Are robots an opportunity or a threat?

To ensure that you never miss an episode of The Manufacturing Executive, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or here.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for The Manufacturing Executive in your favorite podcast player.

I like to see robotics as an amplifier.It amplifies the ability of the people on the team to produce more to producebetter and also amplifies their ability to learn and educate and become moretechnically savvy. Welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving midsize manufacturers forward here, you'll discover new insihts frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and you'll learn from btob sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive Podcast, I'm Joe Sullivan Your Houst in a cofounderof the Industrial Marketing Agency GERILA. Seventy six ouninetuneen sixtytwo that was the year. The first industrial robot went to work when GMdeployed unimate in their dicasting factory fast forward. Almost sixtyyears and robots are everywhere in the manufacturing space but they're farfrom a commodity, and today's GUASTP will talk about. Why have also divedinto the role robots are playing in filling the manufacturing, laborshortage, the changing role of cobats and, what's on the horizon in an everevolving world of robotics? So on that note, let me take a moment to introduceour guest Ryan Lillibridge. Is the director of Business Development, ADmission, design and automation, with over fifteen years of experience in theautomation industry serving as an applications, engineering manager andprocess owner Ryan enjoys the opportunity to help establish a winningteam and culture by focusing on the people and attributes of the strongteam Ryan lives near Grand Rapids Michigan, with his wife, Liz and threeboys Ryan. Welcome to the show thanks Joe I'm just grateful for theopportunity to talk with you and your audience. Yeah me too. We got a greattopic here and I'm excited to get into it. Ink A lot of our listeners aregoing to be. This is kind of right up there alley. So let's do this thing,Huh yeah, for sure, let's go cool, okay! Well, so you and I were talkingrecently Ryan about the fact that robots have bone around for sixty years,which is kind of kind of crazy. To think about. You know, I wouldn't haveguessed that, but you know they're more readily available. Now than ever and insome ways the traditional industrial robot is almost becoming commoditized,but at the same time the advancements being made in robotics right now areimmense, and I was hoping you could kind of talk about where you see someof the biggest and most impactful changes happening in robotics sure yeah.I like to talk about that kind of stuff, so yeah sixty years, that's a long timeright. So you think about that and what else has been around for sixty yearsand hand been unchanged and dustral...

...robout arms that are have beeninvolving over that time, but they're always been working towards goingfaster, being more accurate and high viline production right, typicallyautomotive. So a lot of those robots and the PROGRAMM instructors have notevolved to the point. That's needed now in a lot of the manufacturing ERV, sothey're continually trying to evolve. Those and you're, seeing these edgecompanies and different devices come into evolve those robots and help themcontinue to bring value outside of maybe some of the larger automotivecompanies hat are pullingthem in they'll still continue to bring valuein those high valume areas and there's the perfect tool for that. The tool isvery valuable there, but I think what we're seeing is you need a systemintigrator to do that and there's a lot of system mitigrators now, so it doesbecome somewhat of a commodity as the toolhas been around so long and peopleare using that in regular le programming that ND implementing that.But a lot of the smaller manufactures have had hurdles in getting robotics in,and I think what we're saying with the evolution of stem education plug andplay devices portable robotics cobots. Those kind of things is theavailability and the wider and broader adoption of robotics across the numberof smaller nanufacturers. So I think now is that one of the Times you canget so much fresh out of college with eight years of programming experienceon robots with the ability come fresh out of college program, those robotsthey can go to these smaller manufactures, bring the robots in thathave plugand play devices on hem and be doing that programming a setup, a lotthemselves. So as that evolves, I think the systemintigrators need to evolve as well and they'll continue to bring value withunderstanding the manufacturing process, understanding these new technologiesand then understanding how robots these traditional arms get kind ofaccessarized, with advanced perception systems of vision and how they canlearn their environments and pick those locations or advancements in ease ofprogramming for the cobats or portability of that capital, so thatthe cobots or different robosts can be moved to location of use, and you canuse that capital. Take it from one place in the facility one applicationone day and then move it later that day reprogrammit, because it's that easyand to redeploy it in another location of the factory. So I think thatcommodity takes place. If you picture it as traditional robotics, but there'sa lot of advancements in robotics that are are exciting and continue to add value to that commodityitem. I think a good model, too, is like you, look at Tesla right with withthe automobile. How long has the automobile bet around and what kind ofadvancements had it seen? But now you...

...take this compilation of differentcensors, advanced software, an you start, building the machine learning aiinto those systems, and it allows what used to just be an automobile to know,drive itself and just a big leap, innect technology thatI think caught a number of the large automotive suppliers of of guard withhow well it did that. I'm curious with the robotics industry. If you'll seesomething similar right, someone gets into the actuator, they take softwareand these perceptive devices, cameras, etc. lightours Ti intourobotics andalson. You see a leavein robotics with maybe a Boston, bypet, Boston Dynamics,bipedrobot being the manufacture about of the future potentially, but there'san exciting time and robotics, as as all these things come together, right n,the processing powers now there to do that. So it's fun to see it's fun to bea part of, and it's always interesting to talk about absolutely well Ryan. Youmentioned to me that upper management in manufacturing organizations have atendency to assume that they need robots and they get excited by theshiny object and they jump straight to a tactical solution and then, meanwhile,in the background, you've got their production teams kind of reeling justtrying to get the job done. So I was wondering if you could talk about. You know how a organization how anorganization should evaluate when and where a robot actually makes sense.Yeah for sure do I get this question a lot. I've got A. I went to a lot ofmanufacturers that are in this position. Right they're, trying to understand a manufacturing system is not workinglike I'd like it to. I know, there's concerns with it executive team,repoard memers are saying we need to automate automation as a solution, andautomation is often paired with the robotics, which is quite often the right answer, but notalways the right answer. So it's gone into those companies, understandingwhat the goals of the executive team are along with. What are the goals ofthe planet managers in the manufacturing team, and how do we alignthose how we bring those into a point to build a bridge between thosetwo groups and solve both goals? Understanding when do user about orwhen to use a different type of actuator will call. It really comesdown to the application. The return on investment, the MAINENANCE teams at themanufacturing facilities to is it a highly cabled maintenance team? That'sdone robotics in their past, well, we'll play in heavily to if you want touse roboticpores a executive team looking for putting those type ofplayers on their team as well to handle that kind of system. I think, with someof the advancements a robotics we're just talking about that level ofcapability can be a little bit different and more accessible, sorobots are becoming more then norm in manufacturing, but sometimes it's justa hard toold aumatic actuaator, that's...

...naded with a simple system, D andnorobotics. So it's really assessing wody manufacturing. How are you makingit and what is the best tool in the tool box to to facilitate those goals?I do want to touch on one other thing here too, because often yo'll seeexecutive teams looking for robotics and it may not just be to solve amanufacturing problem, and I think, there's concerns with kind of what the labor force is looking forright. How do I, how do I draw in new employees, new talent and how tomake the job desirable? So what I've seen over the past as the lot of the baby boomers, are moving outthe manufacture and and than okay with that job? A lot of the next generationswere told: Hey, manufacturing my babyis not going to go to manufacture mybabyis going to go to college and do something different manufacturing jobsdo not have that a lur for certain generations, but if it's a robotics job,it does have more allure. So how do I bring that Allur into my company?One of the ways that you can do that as an executive team is to play to that desire for people to learnadvanced technologies, and that can be by putting automation in place andsaying we're highly automated factory Er. Investing in the future ofautomation, we're hiring people that want to work with robots were hiredpeople that want to work with asmansh technology, so it really is a. It cansometimes be a hiring advantage to put automation a place. That is the newer shiny object right, becausethat's what people are paying attention to and that's okay in their mind, tohave a job, that's doing that, but if it was just standing on a stamping line,running a press press break, that's not exciting oor, not maybe perceived asthe manufacturing job of choice. So yeah, that's a really good point. It'samazing! I feel, like every other conversation I have on this podcast.This idea comes up of: U The the Labor shortage and the the widening skillsgap for machine operators and robotics and automation. I think, to the generalpublic. Have this perception sometimes of Oh we're taking your jobs? You knowthe robots are taking our jobs right and I think the reality that you know Iseem to be hearing from a lot of people like you who are in the heart of thisworld of automation and robotics. Is that now e? We can't find the labor andpeople don't want to do those jobs, and so the robots are helping fillback gapand you still need human beings to operate the robots and understand youknow robotics and have the skill sets and are trained in it. So it's anopportunity, not a threat. I think more than anything would you agree. I wouldtotally agree one of the things I get to do in this. This job is that I'mgrateful for is talk with different industry experts on a pretty regularbasis, and I love what Eric have is at...

...plus one Saytheir tagline on the on oneof the walls. There is robots, work, people rule and since I've seen that isstuck with me, a little bit is that people are the ones that make thesystems work, make them run effectively and- and I like to see robotics as aamplifier, it amplifies the ability of the people on the team to produce moreto produce better and also amplifies their ability to learn and educate andbecome more technically savvy in those roles. So I really think it's that morethan the latter, that's a really good perspective and Joe you brought up thelabor shortage thing. You said you, you hear it on every podcast, but I feel,like I hear it every day with different customers. It's it's a pretty regularoccurrence across each industry that I talkd with itcould be food, it could be ECOM, it could be egg, it could beautomotive. It really doesn't matter right now who we talk with O beappliances. Every customer that I've been talking with in in contact withseems to be struggling with that this year and in the midst of a pandemic youcan you can understand why people would be sometimes scared to come to work andthere's there's probably a number of different factors that play into thatthat have been challenging for manufacturers yeah, I'm hearing thesame thing all the time, it's a real problem for sure yeah. Well,it's a good leading. I was going to sort of dive in into this question inthis conversation. You know this idea of even how the pandemic over the lastyear, you and I recording this on March eleven of twenty one. It was almostexactly a year ago, to the day, when you know we sent our employees homewith their monitors and said, hey, you know work from home for a few weeksuntil this thing passs right and here we are year later, but I'm kind ofcurious. You know one year into this pandemic and with a labor shortage andissues on that front that were already well in the works. What kind ofvulnerability are you seeing manufactures facing right now as aresult of hiring challenges, people not showing up to work? You know the impactof Covid on these companies and what can manufacturers do to mitigate thatvulnerability as much as possible? Yeah, it's real! It's definitely a real thingfor a lot of customers and it's a challenge there's times where they'rejust down for a shift. There's not enough people to run the equipment orrun the machines, and then the hard part is that they still have customersand consumers that want to buy their products. They still have demand tofill, so the deband is still there, which is great right. You want that.That's good to have, but the supply is can be legging because plant shut downor machines are stopped that are dependent upon people coming to work,which is important right Bo want people at work, able to help. Do that, and Ithink one of the Wayis that th will be mitigated- and I think some of thevulnerabilaties that they're seen is...

...man. My customers asking me for myproduct and I cannot get it to them and that's not a good spot to be in for acouple reasons right: THE CONSUMERS WAN it. You can't provide it and thenthere's other there's itthe penalties and incentives that come with some ofthe other manufacturers to so some people get penalize when they're, notshipping enough products. So there's financial ramifications there as wellin what I've seen from a request. TANDPOINT is that people are trying tounderstand how to automate areas of the equipment that they traditionally hadit. So they have hard automation or they have a system that you can loadthe load departs into and the machine will produce the t e part, but there'sno one there to load it anymore. So now the question becomes: How do we giverobots the right eyes in the right hands to be able to load the components into the machinine?And often that was a challenging off automation task? Because- and that'swhy I was left to the operator because it took that nexterity and took thatperception. So some of those challenges you'll see advancements and beenpicking coming along and different vigeon systems that allow you to detector see those things different, grippers coming along throughout robot throughsoft robotics through festile, there's all kinds of different, robotic handsthat are coming up to try and mimic the dexterity of people. So that's that'sone area where we do see people seeking ways to still be producing and removesome of that vulnerability of labor shortages and the Labor when it comesin will be aiding those automation systems, but the the ingressing Egress,a the denige and the parts coming into the systems and going out of thesystems that were typically frontin and back ind of automation are no kind ofexpanding out right. Can we automate those other edges that hadn'ttraditionally been done or were more complex to to do, and this machinemakes this part for one shift and I've got another one over here. That makesit for another shift. So is there a way for me to move my capital equipmentfrom loading, this piece of equipment O here for one shift, and then I need toshoute across the Plat for the next fifth produce the the lower value Osystem up here. So how does that robot Gripera manipulator adapt to thosedifferent applications, and then how do I program it quickly, which is whereyou know our lywere talking a little bit about the cobats and plug and playefforts Takin place? Well, let's let's go there, then, because I think this isreally interesting, and I know that cobots are something that you talkabout and deal with quite a bit as the needs for automation, become sort ofexpand and become more advanced and find their way Ito places where theydidn't. Traditionally, I guess used to be where, like what role do you see,cobots playing now how's that changing? How can they aid with some of thechallenges that we've been talking about in this conversation yeah and wetalke about COBA, says a new and...

...upcoming thing but like like thetraditinal robots, cobuts have been around for fifteen years. It's kind ofcrazy to think about they've been along that are on that long, but definitely alot of advancements in covods and what they can do. I think some of thedifferenntiators between industrial robot and the Cobados, like we said theindustrials high vilme high speed. I accuracy. Where do you see the Cobokcome in as a little bit lower peed higher mix, maybe portable workingalongside oprators, so less safety, less less hurdles to integration, Iwould say so simple to deploy and one of the barriers n cobats that we'veseen in the past was just kind of thet limited speed, capabilities running ata safe range understanding, the safety of the end of ourm tool. The last thingthat anyone wants to have happened as someone gets indered during their job.So there's a lot of different ways to make sure that that's safe, goingthrough risk assessment. That's one of the things that we see there is theadvancements and cobots are coming along to where they can run at a higherspeed and still maintain a safety. So that was a tradeoff H, oftin, wherepeople want to produce very quickly and make the parts as fast as they canprobably not going to be a COBA, because I have to go fast. COBA needsto move slow, so if's, anyone it doesn't injure them, but the thefensors and the force feedback, and that has been improving so that thosereobouts can react quicker and still remain safe around operators. So one ofthe FANAKS Erx we've got a couple of those here mission that are able to goback and forth between full peedalms industrial robot to the collaborativespace which really gives you a lot of flexibility as a manufacturer to beable to be running at a higher speed and then,as a person approaches this sell, you can slow down to a collaborative speedand make it a safe system. So I think that's where we'll see cobats movinginto and allowing to help in that edge pace of loading, a machine. Maybe theydon't want to Legardan around it, because they need an operator to bedelivering toads and bins, and parts to the tothe Coba, an positioning, theCOBA. In the right places, and then also coming in and and retraining theCOBA to the next application, so that's where I see cobats really coming ahead.You see there being sort of a knowledge gap here from manufacturingorganizations who are using robots or should be in terms of you know how theCOBAT is evolving, because it's interesting an I think. I I've been ina number of manufacturing facilities. I've seen these fanic arms moving. youknow like crazy speeds, and then you can understand why human being can't benear that thing, and so my perception has always been there's limitedcapabilities for a cobot for the safety reasons you describe, but with the Yooimproeanent censors and the versatility of a robot being able to goback and forth between working independently at high speed versusnextra human being at a slow speed. I'm...

...just kind of curious: Do you you thinkthat there's a knowledge gap out there to people realize what's even possibleright now, yeah. I think there was early doptors, a kobats which willprobably take a long time to come back to some of them right just because ofsome of those constraints and the capabilities of the early ones, but I don't know that they've explortedeither so education out to he. Those groups is important and kind of talkingthrough those advancements, but I think people are understanding starting tosee that more with the cobots. I'm actually celebrating my son's birthdaythis weekend and one of our partners are good, an friend a at Midwestautomatian supplies. Let me borrows techman Coba, so I'm going to bring itto my son's birthday party and surprise them with a Coba at the birthday party,around kids rights got some honrobot grippers on it that are made to be safearound people so yeah it's one of those things where I'm comfortable I've beingto have it around round some kids and moving around slowly and it's it's safe.So, but there are different ways to do that, and definitely, if you're in afactory- and you see the big yellow arms movi around very quickly- don't goin there. You can't go in there, that's what hefence is there, but some of thecensor technology and area scanders andother items that you can pair with aCoba can give you that higher speed and then also toggoid into a safe mode whenthere's people nearby. So that's that's. One of the big advancements to is justbe able to tie a couple technology together to make it safe and understandthat it's safe, but a co with a stake knife, its never going to be safe. So it's always got to go through riskassessment and proper safety assessment just to make sure that everybody' saveright yea for sure. Well, I think that's a testament to you know the thepotential of a cobot when you could bring it to your kids birthday party,which, by the way you're probably going to be the coolest dad in the school. Ithink you know a little bit more interesting than when I had chucklesthe clown. At my you know, seventh birthday or whatever right, THAT'S PRETTY COOL! Well, Ryan! Isthere anything? We did not touch on that. You like to talk our audienceabout before we put a rap on this one, Jo. I don't think I had too much more.I just enjoyed talking with you and talking about the different robots andtechnologies coming up than I think for the audience. Everybody appreciate youlisten of grateful for the opportunity and I think you'll probably have robotsin your future in the next five to ten years. If there's, not one in yourhouse already sweeping your floor. So thank you. That's awesome, well, GreatConversation Ryan. Can you tell our audience about how they can get intouch with you and where they can learn more about mission, design andautomation? Ture, Jo, you can find me on linkedinthats Y, usually wheare. I hang out for my platform under Ryan Lillerbridge andthen for mission design. Automation are yourlas mission, design Ottocom, so youcan find or website there and than also unlinked in and facebook and Youtube.Okay. Well, awesome, so yeah check out with mission design and automation isdoing, Find Ryan Lillibridge on Linkdin and Ryan. This was a great conversationthanks for sharing your expertise, yeah.

Thank you joe grateful for theopportunity. Awesome! That's for the rest of you. I hope to catch you on thenext episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episodesubscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If youd like to learnmore about industrial marketing and sale strategy, you'll find an everexpanding collection of articles, videos guides and tools, specificallyfor B Tob Manufacturers at grilla. Seventy sixcom Lash Larnn. Thank you somuch for listening until next time.

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