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Companies Get Up-close Look At Automation
Apr 23, 2018

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JASPER — Over 100 representatives from local manufacturers crowded into Machine Solutions’ Vine Street location Wednesday to see firsthand, cutting-edge automation technology.

Machine Solutions, owned by Tell City native Rick Braun, serves manufacturers in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio, offering factory production technology, service and support. The company opened its newest technical center and demo facility at 1110 Vine St. last fall, but held a grand-opening celebration that included demos of several woodworking machines this week. During the daylong event, local manufacturers got to view the machines and talk to sales representatives from Machine Solutions, software companies and automation technology companies.

“This is a learning facility,” Machine Solutions Office Manager Jo Braun said of the location.

Many of the machines on display represent Industry 4.0 technology, which uses machines connected by the internet to automate production lines. Industry 4.0 machines can communicate with each other and act independently on the production floor while being controlled from a remote location.

Mike Rendel, general manager with Shamrock Cabinets in Ireland, attended the event to see what is available. He attended Machine Solutions’ soft opening last year and has purchased machines from the company in the past. For him, the day was about learning how he could update the technology Shamrock Cabinets already uses.

“It isn’t like we have no automation (now),” Rendel said.

Automation offers better efficiency and higher quality, Rendel said. He compared the difference automation makes to making 20 copies by typing the same page 20 times on a typewriter versus making 20 copies using a copy machine, though he did say that woodworking technology is not as primitive as a typewriter.

Ron Devillez, process engineering manager with National Office Furniture, brought several National employees with him to the open house. Machine Solutions was showcasing some of the technologies the company has been discussing for several years. Having the opportunity to see it close up is invaluable.

“It’s like man, you can’t pass this up,” Devillez said.

Before, National employees would travel to Michigan, Atlanta, Georgia, North Carolina or even Europe to see new automation technology in person. Devillez said National will likely still send groups to other locations, but not in as large a group as can be sent down the road to Machine Solutions’ Jasper location. And those who travel to shows farther away will have a better idea of what they’re looking for based off what the company has seen at Machine Solutions.

“If we didn’t have this (Machine Solutions), we wouldn’t look at some of this stuff,” Devillez said. “We don’t know if we can or can’t do some things; can or can’t afford some things.”

Having Machine Solutions locally also offers an opportunity to build confidence with the latest technologies, he said.

Both Rendel and Devillez said that automation does not replace employees. Rather, it gives companies the opportunity to better leverage manpower. Automation replaces the lower skilled, less ergonomic jobs in factories, allowing companies to retrain those employees for higher-skilled jobs.

“We’re trying to grow and do more, but the workforce is tight,” Devillez said.

National Office Furniture currently has seven robots, but Devillez said the robots have not replaced a single person.