Northwest Aerospace News June | July Issue No. 3 | Page 53

CENTER OF EXCELLENCE SPOTLIGHT In general, he said they have a very common-sense approach to technology adoption now. They have recently added a robot that feeds bushings into a CNC lathe, and he said he can see adding more robots for repetitive motion jobs. But he noted, “People have been talking about robots for a long, long time. The automotive industry has had robots for a long time. For the aerospace industry – it’s a big investment.” He added that the costs are not only in the purchase of the robots, but in programming and maintaining the robot. They recently hired their first mechatronics technician from Everett Community College as an addition to their machine maintenance group. This group will eventually be responsible for maintaining robots as they are brought on site. “Robots can be $200,000 each depend- ing on capability and function; it’s a lot of money. It’s a serious financial commitment,” Washburn said. Outside of robots in the factory, we dis- cussed some of the administrative func- tions of the company such as bidding, project management, and training. He said that he isn’t seeing a big technolo- gy leap in how they bid or manage proj- ects, but they have spent some money and invested in a learning management system (LMS) for training staff. Washburn said he did research on several LMS systems to find one that would work for them, and he believes they are one of the only aerospace manufacturing companies in the area with one. Regarding staff training on the mobile-friendly LMS, he said if a machine is down, employees will come into the training center to watch videos on their training center computers. He added, “They watch it as time allows; about 80% of training is online, 20% on equipment.” What technology changes does Washburn see in the future? “In the next five years, I see more robots on the shop floor, mixed in with people. When people think of robots they think of a factory that is void of human beings; I see mostly people, with a few robots doing the repetitive work. Repetitive motion jobs speak to the areas where robots will shine — the same part over and over,” Washburn said. At AMT Senior Aerospace, they produce tens of thousands of parts, and Washburn said they still need support from humans. He said that not all work should be done with technology, and in his training, he spends much of his time training people with soft skills like communication, and punctuality. He said if an ROI can be proven on purchasing equipment, robotic or technology-based, they will look at it. We are hearing other companies that are in a similar place. Washington’s aerospace manufacturers are evaluating what is available to them and looking into applications that will help the company to become more profitable. JUNE | JULY 2018 ISSUE NO. 3 53