One of the secrets to New Berlin Plastics’ exceptional track record of part quality is our deep commitment to training. It enables us to deploy state-of-the-art technologies like robotics, end-of-arm tooling, and automation efficiently and effectively. That, in turn, empowers us to deliver high-quality parts to our customers at competitive prices.
In recent years, as we’ve expanded our investments in robotics and automation, we’ve also invested in the expertise needed to install, implement, and troubleshoot it in-house. We’ve added three full-time automation manufacturing engineers. That has given us the freedom to build exactly what we need to develop fully automated manufacturing processes for our customers. It has also enabled us to produce more complex and sophisticated parts than ever before.
To make it all work, training is a must. It ensures that the solutions we develop in our automation lab can be effectively set up, fine-tuned, and efficiently supported on the production floor. It also helps us solve problems and continue to improve our technology, processes, and results faster than ever.
“To get the most out of robotics and automation, we must train our set-up technicians and equipment operators to do the same processes exactly the same way,” explains Technical Operations Manager Eric Pipkin. “A big aspect of our training is focused on eliminating inconsistencies between people. That, in turn, enables us to consistently produce high-quality parts.”
For example, our in-house automation team has adopted a standard robot and production cell layout. Manufacturing Engineer Paul Bierwagen explains: “Our technicians follow the same process to set up and run a robot on each production line. This standardized approach enables them to set it up and fine-tune its operation faster, with fewer problems. It also streamlines troubleshooting once the line is up and running.”
A portion of learning at New Berlin Plastics happens as training within peer groups, as Bierwagen and his team teach technicians how to diagnose problems, identify root causes, and solve them quickly.
“It’s a dynamic environment. They don’t necessarily see the same problems day after day. Each one can be unique,” he says. “Sometimes, the visible symptom of a problem may be several steps removed from where it occurs. They’re trained to zero in on the problem and solve the root cause”
This methodical, common-sense approach to technology and training has several big benefits:
Focus on appropriate projects: First, it enables Bierwagen and his automation team to focus more time and attention on designing unique solutions for end-of-arm tooling. “It frees up time so we can brainstorm, think through problems, and explore more possibilities.”
It helps accelerate innovation: “It also enables us to go faster. Because our senior management team can see both the costs and benefits of in-house automation and training, they have greater confidence to invest more in this part of the business,” Pipkin points out.
The ability to design and support more complex end-of-arm tooling has opened new business opportunities for New Berlin Plastics. For example, it has enabled the production of more complex part designs and more sophisticated insert loading operations.
Knowledge appreciates in value: In addition, by expanding its in-house capabilities and training, New Berlin Plastics is building an internal knowledge base that will continue to appreciate in value over time. “When we outsourced these operations, all of that knowledge was lost to us,” Pipkin adds.
Retain talent: Finally, by providing employees with extensive training, New Berlin Plastics can attract and retain top-notch talent. “Young, up and coming workers want to grow their skills. They want to be challenged. If we don’t provide that, chances are they won’t stay,” he concludes.
The bottom line is that New Berlin Plastics’ consistent, strategic investments in training give us an unbeatable edge in terms of quality, cost, and agility.
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