(Feb. 17, 2003) — As you probably know by now, in Phoenix we announced two co-winners of our Processor of the Year Award, Tech Group Inc. and Precise Technology Inc. This year, a backdrop to the award is the future of U.S. manufacturing as work moves to China.
One hallmark of NPE 2003 will be automation - everywhere you look, you'll see robots that can cut labor costs to the bone by doing assembly, inspection and more. China is forcing U.S. molders to move beyond simple sprue-picker robots.
As role models for the industry, Tech Group and Precise offer a few lessons. They like to do long runs of demanding parts, things that are consumed once, then need to be replenished constantly. Those runs allow the firms to automate the hell out of many jobs, even reaching the Holy Grail of manufacturing by creating hands-free cells that do assembly, inspection and packaging.
Of course, typical custom molders do shorter runs; there aren't many single-source contracts for baby-wipe boxes out there. And that leads to a central question of this year's NPE: As an average molder, how can you automate when you have to change jobs frequently? Hopefully in Chicago, new products will light the way forward.