How Is Automation and Robotics Good for the American Workforce?

PRE-TEC Robotics Willamette Valley Company

“The overwhelming conclusion of industry experts is that automation doesn’t spell the end of gainful employment for humans, but rather, the improvement of employment opportunities.”

– From How Robotic Automation is Changing the Job Market

As industrial automation technology continues to develop and evolve, our PRE-TEC team is here to help businesses all over the country prepare for the future by developing innovative custom manufacturing solutions to help businesses grow. Since the 1990s, WVCO’s PRE-TEC division has been at the forefront of innovative manufacturing solutions and the development of precision equipment. Our team has prepared hundreds of robotic systems through the decades that have led to measurable improvements for the company’s overall “bottom line”.

It is not difficult to understand how the use of industrial robots is a cost-effective way to produce higher quality products and increase productivity, but if you look deeper, you will see the benefits to human workers as well. In fact, there are a number of ways the evolution of robotics are improving conditions and creating new opportunities for workers. However, the use of robotics is not without controversy.

The Fear of Automation & Robotics
There is an unfortunate perception that robots will eliminate the need for the human workforce in the near future. Job security is always a primary concern among manufacturing workers and the projected increase in automation is causing anxiety among the American workforce. It is understandable why many employees and labor unions can perceive automation as a threat to their well-being and job security.

How Does Automation Benefit Workers?
In this post, we’d like to counter those fears and make the point that automation does not necessarily equal job loss. In fact, it’s quite the contrary- the evidence is showing that automation is actually improving prospects for American workers. A wide range of industry experts agree that automation will lead to better working conditions, higher pay and job growth.

1) Safer Working Conditions
By taking on the necessary manufacturing tasks that can be repetitive and cumbersome for workers, automation creates a safer work environment and reduces the risk of serious and sometimes fatal on-the-job accidents. Eliminating these tasks in a fast-paced production line reduces stress, mental fatigue, and injuries that can result from lifting and moving large objects.

2) More Satisfaction
Business experts predict that improving tasks like parts retrieval or transferring materials within a facility will allow workers to redirect their skills to better uses. If machines can perform tasks that are repetitive or even dangerous for employees to perform, workers have more opportunities focus their efforts on more engaging job functions that improve quality and customer service like Q.C. checks, special orders, machine operation, maintenance, repair, and line supervision.

3) Higher Pay
Historically, supply and demand drive wage increases and businesses can only pay workers more if they become more productive. Automation enables human workers to be more efficient and focus on more valuable tasks that justify a higher wage. Manufacturing job titles and tasks are changing and employers are adding higher paying job opportunities like system operators, supervisors, programmers, and technicians to keep operating systems in top condition and running efficiently.

4) More jobs
In most cases, utilizing automation for materials handling results in higher output for a lower cost. As a company grows, so will the need for more jobs in that industry. As an example, the Wall Street Journal cites the growth of the banking industry after automated tellers were introduced in the 1970s. After ATMs were introduced, more branches were opened which resulted in more positions and job openings to be filled for decades.

Like computers, automation does not mean job elimination. Despite their advanced capabilities, automated robotic systems do not eliminate the need for a human workforce. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, more than 90% of jobs will not be able to be fully automated. Robotics and automation will improve production, employee safety, and satisfaction, which results in a lower turnover. Adapting to the “age of robotics” is a necessary change businesses will need to make in order to stay competitive and to help maximize their worker’s potential.

The FastPatch Products Team to Exhibit at Two Major Events in September

WVCO’s Concrete Repair Division to exhibit new products at League of CA Cities Annual Expo & 2018 Railway Interchange, two major US infrastructure products.

The FastPatch team, a division of WVCO, is on the move again! Fresh off of a successful few days at APWA PWX in Kansas City, a major public works convention, the company will be showcasing concrete repair solutions at two major infrastructure conferences in September.

Representatives from the FastPatch products division will attend and exhibit at the League of CA Cities Annual Expo September 12-13 in Long Beach, CA before heading to the AREMA Annual Conference and Exposition (AREMA 2018), September 16th-19th, 2018 in Chicago, IL. AREMA 2018, a combined railway industry event, is sponsored by WVCO partners AREMA, RSI, REMSA, and RSSI, and is the largest U.S.-based technical conference and trade show for the railroad industry.

Railway_Interchange_

WHAT IS FASTPATCH? FastPatch products have been approved by government agencies all over the United States for service on major highways and have been used to repair airports, highways, bridges, railroads, and other various applications throughout the United States and around the world. The products offer an innovative solution to permanently repair and quickly return-to-service important infrastructure like roadways, airports, and facilities.

WHAT’S NEW? Conference attendees are encouraged to stop by our booths at both of these events to learn more about two of our newest products, New FastPatch 100NS and TrenchSeal TS6  . The FastPatch 100NS in an affordable, easy-to-apply high performance single component sealant perfect for vertical or sloped application.

The TrenchSeal TS6 saves time and money as it is cold-applied (no waiting time!) and offers exceptional adhesion strength to asphalt and movement capabilities to trenches, traffic loops, and cracks.

FastPatch Microtrench Systems from FastPatch Systems on Vimeo.

To learn more about these and all of our concrete repair products, please visit the FastPatch Website or email us directly at FastPatch@wilvaco.com.

 

Benefits of Industrial Automation Demonstrated in PRE-TEC Video

PRE-TEC

What Can Industrial Automation do for Manufacturing Businesses?

Numerous case studies conducted through the decades have demonstrated time and time again that implementing product line automation with robotic technology is a cost-effective way to produce higher quality products, increase productivity and improve safety. This PRE-TEC video demonstrates how automation increases precision while saving time:

As the technology develops, it is estimated that the number of industrial automation and robots deployed worldwide will go up to 2.6 million units by 2019. WVCO’s robotics division, PRE-TEC, is helping businesses all over the country prepare for the future by developing innovative custom manufacturing solutions to help businesses grow. We’ll let them tell you in their own words.

 

Is Cross-Laminated Timber a Game Changer?

Cross Laminated Timber

If you haven’t already heard of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) by now, you will.  More and more architects and designers are making the switch to building with Cross-Laminated Timber, some even going as far to refer to it as the “Concrete of the 21st Century”.

Nearly every day, there is news about new multi-family and commercial structures constructed using this seemingly “magical” material. It’s even being embraced by mainstream companies like McDonald’s.  In fact, demand for this material is expected to grow by as much as 15% over the next decade.

But what is it? Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a large-scale, prefabricated, solid engineered wood panel that is made up of kiln-dried wooden boards stacked in alternating directions (where the cross of the name comes from), then stuck together with structural adhesives. While at the mill, CLT panels are cut to size, including door and window openings, with state-of-the art CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) routers, capable of making complex cuts with high precision. Finished panels are typically 2 to 10 feet wide, with lengths up to 60 feet and thickness up to 20 inches.

Watch the video below for more details:

What are the Benefits of Cross-Laminated Timber? CLT is lightweight yet very strong, with superior acoustic, fire, seismic, and thermal performance making it ideal for long spans in walls, floors, and roofs. It’s also fast and easy to install, generating almost no waste onsite. Finished CLT panels are exceptionally stiff, strong, and stable. Other benefits include:

Simple, Quick Construction
CLT panels are lightweight and arrive on site with a structural system ready to be assembled. The process is both simple and swift, allowing for immediate and accurate construction which in turn saves time and money.

Fire-Resistant
Though it may sound strange to tout fire-resistance as a benefit of a wooden building material, it’s one of Cross-Laminated Timber’s greatest strengths. The lamination of CLT has an inherent fire-resistance to it, and the construction of the panels and structures allows little room for fire to spread. Additionally, the solid thermal mass of CLT prevents the conduction of heat from one side of the panel to the other, allowing extremely high temperatures to remain isolated to a side as the other remains at room temperature.

Sustainable
The nature of wood makes it the only building material that can be regrown and feasible in the long-term. Precision cutting of CLT minimizes on-site waste and its manufacturing requires less energy than producing steel or concrete. Cross-Laminated Timber’s light carbon footprint is one of its greatest strengths.

Acoustic Insulation
Solid wood paneling provides superior acoustic insulation, dampening both airborne and impact noises. Its lightweight nature also leads to quiet construction, making it ideal for urban development.

Thermal Insulation
In the same way that Cross-Laminated Timber’s airtight design creates auditory insulation it also creates thermal insulation. Tightly packed panels can trap 90% of the heat that would ordinarily escape from a home. CLT’s previously-mentioned high thermal mass means that temperatures are kept stable and comfortable.

Pleasing Aesthetics
There’s a warm, soothing visual quality to building with wood that separates it from the lifeless concrete slabs that typically fill a city. Cross-Laminated Timber also grants designers with the freedom to experiment with more organic and creative structures than previously allowed by old-fashioned building techniques.

When comparing the manufacturing costs of certain steels and concrete, as well as the money saved on shorter construction time, CLT comes out as at a competitive price.

To learn more, visit CLT Basics on www.apawood.org & Is the Construction Industry About to Enter a Timber Age? on our blog.

Photo labeled for reuse @ flickr.com/photos/designmilk

Willamette Valley Company to Exhibit Concrete Repair Products at ICTD 2018

WCVO is headed to the ASCE International Conference on Transportation & Development (ICTD 2018) in Pittsburgh July 15th-18th to demonstrate what our concrete repair products can do for those in the transportation and public infrastructure industry.

ICTD 2018 is organized by The Transportation & Development Institute (T&DI) with the goal of facilitating the exchange of information, knowledge, and best practices among transportation and development practitioners and researchers, public infrastructure owners, policy makers, government engineers and planners, operations managers and leading academics from around the world.

“Emerging Technologies: Impacts on Transportation & Development” is the central focus for this year’s conference and gives transportation professionals a chance to network, share ideas and advance the knowledge on the impact of technologies on transportation and development. “With the rapid growth in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), V2V and V2I communication, on-demand location-based transportation, and other emerging technologies, there is a critical need to assess and prepare for the impact of these technologies on transportation and development as a whole” it states on the conference website. An outstanding panel of speakers and exhibitors have been assembled to discuss the impact of new technology on mobility, safety, transit, airports, freight, pavements and other key elements of transportation infrastructure and operations.

 

If you are headed to the conference, we invite you to stop by our booth to learn about our FastPatch concrete repair products and how agencies all over the United States and around the world are using it for service on major highways, airports, bridges, railroads and more.

To learn more, read How FastPatch Became an Innovative Solution for Concrete Repair or visit fastpatchsystems.com. For more information contact us at FastPatch@wilvaco.com.

WVCO to Exhibit FastPatch Fiber Connect 2018

Fiber-Connect

As the demand for more bandwidth and widespread deployments of fiber broadband increases, so does the need for cost-effective concrete repair solutions. Fiber networks are enhancing economic development and social interaction in communities throughout the United States and the world. According to Cisco’s latest Virtual Networking Index, the average North American home has 7 Internet-capable devices going at any given time. And by the year 2020, that number will swell to over 12 devices per person.

Fiber optic installation must be precise and cost-effective so numerous civic, business and political leaders are turning to reliable concrete repair solutions like FastPatch to quickly repair roads, sidewalks and other important infrastructure while keeping repair costs down.

WVCO will be in Nashville June 4th-6th exhibiting products from our FastPatch division at the premier fiber broadband event in North America – the 2018 Fiber Connect conference, presented by the Fiber Broadband Association! We are looking forward to the opportunity to meet with industry leaders, fiber broadband network operators, and other cutting-edge vendors and equipment providers.

Typical uses of FastPatch concrete repair products include

  • Filling voids, defects and damaged areas in roadways, parking lots, warehouses, and sidewalks.
  • Concrete foundations and footings, anchor bolts or rebar.
  •  Repair cracks and spalls in roadways, warehouse, and freezer floors.
  • Roadway, warehouse floors, and dock repairs.
  •  Pillars, curbs, sidewalks.

About the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA)
The FBA is a non-profit association consisting of organizations that deliver services over next-generation, direct fiber-optic connections – as well as companies that manufacture fiber products and others involved in planning and building fiber networks.
Gigabit-enabled networks are now possible and are beginning to appear in some communities, with expectations that these superfast, all-fiber services will become standard within a few short years. To learn more, visit www.fiberbroadband.org.

PRE-TEC Introduces New Fanuc SCARA Robot Line

The Fanuc SCARA robot line is the new standard in that product line for precision high-speed picking and tracking and easy integration into process lines and systems.
PRE-TEC is committed to providing industry-leading, flexible, automated solutions through robotic integration. The new Fanuc SCARA robot line now offered by PRE-TEC introduces new opportunities for our customers to make use of a cost-effective and robust product for their small, fast, and simple applications.

The Fanuc SCARA robot line is the new standard in that product line for precision high-speed picking and tracking and easy integration into process lines and systems. Using a limited workspace, the SCARA robot is able to reach a large pick and place area.

Equipped with a 360-degree radius work envelope, work can be completed behind the SCARA robot with a compact inner radius that leaves more workstations around the machine for additional efficiencies. The system is perfect for applications with 180-degree operation in one second with precise part handling.

Ideal for applications across consumer electronics, automotive components, medical devices, plastics and rubbers, and food and beverages, the SCARA robot can be quickly integrated and redeployed with small footprints and with low power requirements. There is a flexibility achieved in the workspace, specifically when workflow and layout are critical. The SCARA robot can move in full z strokes, across a single plane or in a parallel plane motion, improving access and efficiency when cost is critical.

Competitive with linear actuators, the Fanuc SCARA robot is able to replace hard automation tools, specifically where a high level of stiffness is required for precise placement of small parts on high-speed lines.

PRE-TEC can design and build cost-effective and time-saving options for customers with the SCARA robot line, a solution that can compete with high-speed CAM driven hard automation solutions. Contact our team of automation engineers to see how we can help improve your manufacturing layout with a cost-effective and time-efficient solution using Fanuc’s SCARA robots.

To learn more, click here to download the SCARA Flyer or Contact a PRE-TEC Engineer.

Advances in Industrial Robotics and Automation on the Rise


The concept of utilizing industrial robotics in mass production is nothing new. In fact, the use of robotics and automation go back to the 1970s as industries wanted to find new ways to increase product quality and productivity without increasing costs. In the 1990s, a group of innovative, take-charge individuals at Willamette Valley Company saw the benefits of industrial automation for metering chemical products and launched our robotics division. This division was later named “PRE-TEC” in 2009.

As mass production evolves and grows, our PRE-TEC engineers understand that the use of industrial robots is a cost-effective way to produce higher quality products and increase productivity. Our team of engineers and scientists work closely with our industry partners to contribute innovative ideas and stay ahead of the curve when it comes to advances in the robotics field.

Our robotics partner, Robotic Industries Association (RIA), believes that the use industrial automation equipment is significantly on the rise. As the technology develops, it is estimated that the number of industrial automation and robots deployed worldwide will go up to 2.6 million units by 2019.

There have been numerous exciting advances made in industrial robotics over the years. One example is the use of Vision-Guided Robot (VGR) Systems. VGR robots, robotic systems fitted with vision sensors, are able to work for longer periods of time with a high level of speed and reliability. VGR systems not only surpass the use of traditional “blind” robots, they are highly adaptable and easy to implement.

“Flexibility is a key driver of ROI in robotics,” says RIA in this article. “3D vision capabilities have allowed robots to complete more than one task without reprogramming, as well as the ability to account for unforeseen variables in work environments. Further, 3D vision allows a robot to recognize what’s in front of it, to a certain extent, and react accordingly.”

By automating tasks that previously were done manually, 3D vision-guided robots are revolutionizing mass production. Using 3D smart sensors with onboard software, an industrial robot can perform tasks like “Pick and Place”, the action of automatically sensing and picking up the correct parts and placing them in the desired order and location. This function, something that could previously only be done by a skilled worker, was once a challenge for robots, but it is now a common practice in the day-to-day operations in most factories.

To learn more about 3D Smart Sensors in Vision-Guided Robotic Systems, click here.

PRE-TEC's New Fanuc SCARA Robot Line

PRE-TEC’s New Fanuc SCARA Robot Line

Another exciting advance in industrial robotics technology is the ability for robots to work in a more efficient and compact workspace. PRE-TEC’s new Fanuc SCARA robot line is the new standard for precision high-speed picking and tracking. Equipped with a 360-degree radius work envelope, work can be completed behind the SCARA robot with a compact inner radius that leaves more workstations around the machine for additional efficiencies. Click here to learn more about the Fanuc SCARA robot line.

About PRE-TEC
The PRE-TEC division of Willamette Valley Company is currently the largest custom robotic integrator on the West Coast having installed systems throughout North America. PRE-TEC offers support in areas of training, programming, spare parts, and preventive maintenance. Please visit www.wilvaco.com to learn more about WVCO’s other divisions.

Celebrate The Power of Public Works During National Public Works Week

Public Works ProfessionalsNational Public Works Week is coming up (May 20-26, 2018) and we felt like this is the perfect time to reflect on the critical role public works professionals and organizations like  The American Public Works Association (APWA) have on our society.

“From providing clean water to disposing of solid waste, to building roads and bridges or planning for and implementing mass transit, to removing snow on roadways or devising emergency management strategies to meet natural or manmade disasters public works services determine a society’s quality of life” states the organization on its website.

The 2018 theme is “The Power of Public Works” and celebrates the enormous contribution public works professionals make every day to communities all across North America.

What is National Public Works Week?

National Public Works Week (NPWW) is a public education campaign sponsored by APWA that seeks to create a stronger conversation and association between public works and the communities they improve daily. Since its inception in 1960, NPWW has identified and honored hundreds of men and women that work in maintenance, construction, design, and operation of major public works throughout the country.

Getting Involved

If you’re looking for a way to get involved in National Public Works Week, the APWA has published several handy tools on the subject, including a How-To Guide for anyone looking for a good place to start. For more information on National Public Works Week or APWA, please visit npww.apwa.net.

About APWA

The American Public Works Association is a nonprofit organization founded to serve public works professionals in all branches of industry. The association has a worldwide membership in numbers over 28,500 and is open to any individual, agency, and/or corporation that bring with them an interest in public works.

What Exactly Are “Potholes” Anyway?

Potholes and Concrete RepairStory Source: AWPA

It happens to us all. We’re on a relatively smooth ride and suddenly- BAM. Your vehicle dips a few inches and you’re left wondering how much damage has been done on your brand new tires. Chances are, you just hit a pothole. You’ve heard the term and if you’re like most people, you detest them. Potholes are certainly a nuisance, but they can often be dangerous and will require fast repair.

But what are they? And how do they get fixed?

What causes a pothole?
Potholes are created when the top layer of pavement and the material beneath—called the base or sub-base—cannot support the weight of the traffic. Two factors are always present in such a failure: TRAFFIC and WATER. The “gestation period” for a pothole includes:

1) Snow-melt or rain seeps through cracks in the pavement and into the sub-base; if the moisture cannot adequately drain away from the sub-base and soil underneath, it becomes saturated and soft.

2) Trapped moisture is subjected to repeated freeze/thaw cycles–and with each occurrence the expanding ice lifts and cracks the pavement more. The passing traffic weakens the pavement, cracking it further.

3) As temperatures rise and the ice melts, a void is left under the pavement. This void collects more water, and during the next freeze, the void will enlarge.

4) Vehicles driving over the weakened pavement pound it until the surface breaks and collapses into the void below, thus creating a pothole.

Why are they called potholes?
According to the late trivia expert and syndicated columnist L. M. Boyd, pottery makers in l5th and l6th century England would take advantage of the ruts that wagon and coach wheels gouged into roads. Anxious for a cheap source of raw materials for making clay pots, the potters would dig into the deep ruts to reach clay deposits underneath.

Teamsters driving wagons and coaches over those roads knew who and what caused these holes and referred to them as “potholes.”

What affects pavement life?
Pavement life is influenced by many factors: vehicle loading (axle loads, tire pressure and gross vehicle weight [GVW]), traffic volume and mix, environmental conditions, topography, subgrade condition, initial pavement design and construction practices, maintenance activity and pavement age.

Traffic volume has increased significantly and this trend will continue —but few new lane-miles have been added to the nation’s highway, road and street network and are not expected to keep pace with the increased demand.

The decision and capability to patch potholes is influenced by: current weather; traffic conditions; imminent scheduled roadway construction; major maintenance work or utility work in the roadway; availability of personnel, equipment, and materials, and the demands of the traveling public.

How are potholes repaired?
Pothole patching is performed either as an emergency repair during harsh conditions or as routine maintenance scheduled for warmer and drier periods. Typically, emergency repairs are done only when a pothole presents a substantial safety or traffic operational problem and must be urgently corrected.

For example, a large pothole on a major arterial has contributed to collisions by causing drivers to swerve to avoid or lose control after hitting it. Or, one or more large potholes hinder the flow of traffic causing unusual slow-down and congestion. Potholes near activated traffic signals may expose embedded loop sensor wires, and when they break, the signals will not be responsive to traffic demands.

Emergency repairs usually are done in heavy traffic and can be a safety risk to maintenance workers. Repairs that are more permanent can be scheduled for times when weather and traffic are more conducive to safe operations.

There are a number of standard pothole repair methods used for any asphalt paved street or road, but here is a demonstration of how FastPatch products, a division of WVCO, can be used to repair a common pothole.

To learn more about FastPatch and what we can do for you, visit fastpatchsystems.com