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30 PCB007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2023 Suppliers and manufacturers alike are strug- gling to fill spots lost during COVID. Whether it was downsizing due to lower demand or loss due to the pandemic, we are all facing chal- lenges on our return to full strength. Looking at this from a high-altitude level, I wonder where we can improve. In process design and implementation, we look at the over- all task, space, environ- ment, ergonomics, facil- ities, and the like. We look to implement the process so that it is effec- tive and provides the required deliverables. Right now, we are facing labor shortages that put a strain on processes that once were robust. What can we change? One of the final stages of process development is automation. Can we automate any tasks or the process entirely? In many more challenging processes, this answer is no; human intervention is required. But even here, the shortages are being felt and through- put suffers. But we can make some changes that may be more efficient. e word automation strikes fear in many as the first thought is loss of jobs to mechaniza- tion. is doesn't have to mean a loss of a job; Where Can We Improve? the "task" may be automated, and a human is no longer required, but that doesn't mean the human is replaced entirely. First, the key to automation is to remove the human from the tedious, repetitive tasks. e highest work- place injuries are attributed to liing and twist- ing. Further, these types of tasks can introduce errors, as over time an operator can become fatigued and lose focus from a repetitive task. If there's a li or twist injury, you might have lost time and insurance claims. Our focus, rather, should be on automat- ing these task s. Lift- ing , twisting , and flip- ping can all be auto- m a t e d w i t h t o d a y 's h a n d l i ng e q u i p m e n t . Loading conveyers, flip- ping products, changing directions, and loading or unloading machines can all be accomplished b y t h e s e i n t e l l i g e n t machines. No more inju- ries, claims, or lost time. Some periodic maintenance and they just keep on rockin'. e human element can be moved to fill lost spots in other more important tasks that require critical thinking and activity. is can also help fill the voids where COVID took its Testing Todd Feature Column by Todd Kolmodin, GARDIEN SERVICES USA

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