Chicago — During stints at Ford and Elkay Manufacturing, Trista Bonds was brought in to replace workers with robots. When the projects were finished, the companies had trouble filling the jobs that remained: automation technicians.
“I could see the need; I could see the demand,” she said.
Now, at an injection molding plant in Chicago's South Side, Bonds is doing something about it.
BSD Industries has two work cells with 240-ton EcoPower all-electric presses from Wittmann Battenfeld Inc., churning out injection molded cutlery. But the two W833 Pro robots really tell the story of BSD because the company's main purpose is to train workers in robotics.
Bonds, an electrical industrial automation/robotics engineer, got the idea 12 years ago when she saw a similar project for machinists run by a Detroit nonprofit called Focus: Hope. She wanted to establish something similar in Chicago for robotics training.
“I had a desire to provide training in automation, programing and robotics for industrial equipment, and I didn't know how to do it. I just had a desire, I was just hopeful that there was a way to provide that for people who wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity,” she said.
Bonds wrote a plan for the program but didn't know how to make it a reality. Then, one day at church, her pastor, the Rev. Byron Brazier, said he was looking for ideas to invest in people.
Brazier also heads the Arthur M. Brazier Foundation, based in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood. The foundation supports programs aimed at reducing crime, improving education and supporting local businesses.
Bonds took her idea to Brazier, and BSD was born.
“I decided on plastics molding because of my experience in technology and manufacturing. In my opinion, it's a clean process. I also feel like it's a relatively financially feasible project to launch as a manufacturing initiative,” Bonds said.
The plant started training workers a year ago and started molding in October. The first class of trainees — BSD calls each group a “cohort” — was recruited from Brazier's Apostolic Church of God.
Bonds, 45, is BSD's vice president of engineering and manufacturing operations.