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22 PCB007 MAGAZINE I SEPTEMBER 2021 Feature Interview by Nolan Johnson I-CONNECT007 Nolan Johnson speaks with Matt Stevenson of Sunstone about continuous improvement through factory automation and streamlining processes. Nolan Johnson: Matt, let's start by talking about the automation of your processes. Is it strategic to your business model to streamline your pro- cesses, to grow and become more profitable? Matt Stevenson: One of our key motivations is maintaining the profitability of the business. One of the ongoing points of emphasis is the increased cost of labor. Expenses across the in- dustry continue to rise, but not nearly as rap- idly as the costs to attract and retain skilled workers. At Sunstone the people we have are what makes the difference from a quality and leadtime standpoint. Without our people we would be in a far different position. Today, it's not a matter of cutting costs to increase mar- gins, it's almost a matter of cutting costs to maintain margins and remain competitive. Sunstone always has relied on its people, par- tially because of our processes, and partly due to the experience within the manufacturing team. In the past, our team was almost as good as automation but fast forward 10–15 years, la- bor costs are going up very rapidly, and I don't see any end in sight. I think as the COVID pan- demic sent a flood of people to remote work and essential worker status, work-life balance became a key desirable feature for many work- ers; manufacturing must continue to be cre- ative to attract the best workers and maintain profitability. When a manufacturing company—that op- erates on thin margins to begin with—starts to see its top expense item accelerate, as it has been over the past couple of years, automa- tion and smart factory concepts need to have a Sunstone Streamlining the Process

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