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42 SMT007 MAGAZINE I JANUARY 2022 just accelerating the need because now peo- ple realize it's not price alone that you must deal with when offshoring. ere are a lot of issues. Stevenson: We are feeling optimistic about 2022. In general, we think the economy is do- ing well. Electronics is doing very well, even though parts will still be a problem through 2022, into 2023, and beyond. So, until the sup- ply chain with parts gets dialed in, it will be a struggle, but it will continue to improve as ev- eryone gets more comfortable doing business in today's environment. Matties: at supply chain squeeze is felt through increased demand. At some point, where they can't justify the price, perhaps they go to China or somewhere else. But where is that point? Stevenson: It depends. Some customers believe we've already exceeded that price point. For others, there are grumblings that we are get- ting close, while still others pay whatever they need to in order to keep their suppliers domes- tic. It is really a balancing act by these purchas- ers with cost, lead-time, availability, and cus- tomer service. Matties: What are you doing to lower your costs? Obviously, labor and materials are the two big costs there. Stevenson: With every capital purchase that we have had since last year, we have looked at ways to build in any kind of efficiency into the process through automation or material han- dling. By doing so, we have less need for labor, especially for the menial, mundane jobs. is way, we can reallocate people to do something that requires more skill. In general, labor is go- ing to be a problem for American manufactur- ing; it may get to the point where we will not be able to find what we need. Even more than finding the labor will be retain- ing those employees. We're not going to have 20-year employees anymore. We will be lucky to have a quality, hardworking employee who wants to work five days a week for two or three years. We need to understand that benchmark, speed up our training, and find even more ways to automate our product. Nolan Johnson: You're talking about moving the specific knowledge of how, the art of that, if you will, into your systems so that it's not with your operators anymore. Stevenson: Right. Matties: It's the smart factory mentality, but we know smart factories aren't a flip of the switch. As you look at the potential of smart processes, what would be the most important area to au- tomate right now? What process do you have where you could take out the human aspect? Stevenson: We're concentrating on our me- chanical operations problems right now, main- ly drill and fab. Any time that they must make a choice, such as on a cutter size for a rout pro- Matt Stevenson

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