Industrial Automation – It Doesn’t Have To…

Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To... Be Doom & Gloom

June 29, 2021 elliTek, Inc. Season 2 Episode 13
Industrial Automation – It Doesn’t Have To…
Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To... Be Doom & Gloom
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Doom and gloom. Enough of that - this episode is all about successes!

Listen to hear how manufacturers can use automation (and sometimes not) to overcome and succeed in a competitive market when labor can be difficult to find.

elliTek's Engineers have been asked about some interesting things lately that could benefit you. Anti-air? Listen to learn what it is, why it's important, and what manufacturers can do about it.

Do you remember Brandon's Brandology about the 4 reasons to automate? We review those and why you can't pick all four.

There are tasks that can be automated in each department. Starting with the Office, moving to the Plant Floor, Maintenance, and then the IT department, listen to hear ideas for what can be automated and some easy things that don't require automation.

Stick around to hear about some things to consider before adding automation, especially for the first time.

Looking for CMMS for maintenance and ordering? Here's the link to Pathways 7, Critical Machine Parts.

Reach out to us with any questions or future topics!

If you don't want to click on those links, pick up the phone to call us at (865) 409-1555 ext. 804.

Brandon Ellis  0:00  

Hello, this is Brandon Ellis with "Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To". In our last podcast, we spent a lot of time on the doom and gloom. In this episode though, we're going to focus on the bright side, we're going to do away with labor shortages. So, join us. Hello, everybody, and welcome to "Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To". In case you're new, I'm Brandon Ellis and I'm your host and also the owner of elliTek. As we jump into today's episode, I just want to ask you to hit that follow button and Subscribe Button depending on the platform that you're listening on. And if you're listening on Apple podcast, and you enjoy what you hear today, please go to the Show page, scroll to the bottom and leave the podcast a five-star rating and review. Now that we've got the marketing out of the way, I want to say thanks for tuning in. So, let's get started with today's episode. Hello, this is Brandon with "Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To". It's Friday morning where we are. So, you'll be getting this podcast on a Tuesday or thereafter. But I am here with our marketing manager, Miss Beth Elliott. 


Beth Elliott  1:04  

Good morning. Good morning, Brandon. Good morning, everybody.


Brandon Ellis  1:06  

It is morning here. On our last podcast, you'd mentioned that we record on Fridays, and so it's always a kind of a relaxed time. And I was kind of because it was a short week, but this week's been very, very busy, but very, very productive and I like productive weeks.


Beth Elliott  1:28  

So, what has been going on then? What have you been hearing about lately? 


Brandon Ellis  1:32  

As far as stuff I've heard about. Okay, let's see. It's there's a lot of chatter going on. There's a lot on the news. There's a lot of stuff. You know, and I'm not gonna belabor that stuff. Everybody's heard of the great semiconductor shortage. We talked about the resin shortages and all this material shortage, and the doom and gloom. Inflation that's a very real thing that's happening. And we're going to talk about some other issues. We talked in the last podcast, of course, we alluded to the labor shortages, which is affecting every industry, not just manufacturing. But I've heard some interesting things this week with some of the meetings that I've had the opportunity and the ability to have with some high up folks and some corporations. And one of the things had to do with there's a renewed focus, and I say renewed because probably a decade or more ago maybe a decade and a half ago, it was a big push. And that was, but I don't know that we termed it this. They're terming it today reduce your carbon footprint.


Beth Elliott  2:39  

Okay, yeah.


Brandon Ellis  2:40  

And so how do you do that? Well, you know, companies have done this in every industry for years where they make investments in wind farms and solar, solar farms, I guess they would call them those kind of things. But this is a more exact approach, which is to begin replacing pneumatics, or what I call anti air


Beth Elliott  3:00  

Anti-air. Okay. You gotta tell me, anti-air?


Brandon Ellis  3:04  

So basically, we want to start going, the manufacturers need to start specifying on new equipment, but also retrofitting any equipment, getting away from the need for compressed air, or at least as much compressed air, reduce the need. And the reason is because compressed air has been shown to be a very expensive resource as far as compressing the air, compressed air systems through plants have all manner of leaks and inefficiencies. And so, the compressors are always, always running. And so, when you consider the energy usage of a compressor, and especially these, you know, these large plants that have many, many, you know, five, six, 10, 12, however, many of these large screw compressors and things of that nature, they run constantly. And so, if you can switch that to electrics, electric actuators, electric presses, and getting and even hydraulics is messy. But also, there's a, you know, hydraulic oil, so you've got that to deal with as far as environmental things and that nature. But to be able to do that with electrics, servo electrics, electric actuators, ball screw actuators, which we've talked about in the past, and belt driven actuators, those kind of things, to be able to do that on a small and large scale is one of the things that companies are trying to do to reduce their energy usage, which honestly is real money, but also to reduce their carbon footprint. There's a big push to be greener right now. So that's one of the things that I've been hearing about.


Beth Elliott  4:35  

That's a good thing. Yeah. Conservation.


Brandon Ellis  4:36  



Beth Elliott  4:38  

That's a good thing. Yeah. It'd save them a lot of money too, in the long run.


Brandon Ellis  4:41  

It would save money and it makes for a quieter machine. And then also,


Beth Elliott  4:47  

Because that compressor would be loud, wouldn't it?


Brandon Ellis  4:49  

Well, the compressor's usually back in the room because yes, they're very loud. But you have all the all of the air leaks, and then you're exhausting air and things of that nature with the manifolds and that kind of stuff. And so, while that is music to my ears from from 


Beth Elliott  5:04  

A sales point?


Brandon Ellis  5:05  

Well, not just that, honestly from designing machines, and then getting to hear them work and hearing all the valves popping and things that nature is part of that. But yes, air is not very economical and not very green anymore. So certainly, that's something elliTek can work with you on. We have had done this for quite some time with our lines of electric actuators and our expertise with motion and things of that nature. You know, the other thing is, we talked about machine condition monitoring a few podcasts ago, "It Doesn't Have To... Be Unmonitored", I believe was the podcast. And so, we were specifically talking about predictive maintenance or predicting when something - basically giving a tool that allows someone to see when things are about to fail, without actually having to endure the failure. So, then you can do predictive maintenance, which means we're going to schedule it versus unpredicted maintenance, which means,


Beth Elliott  6:03  

Well, you got people working, and then they can't.


Brandon Ellis  6:07  

So that's the point of condition monitoring, which we've done a lot with Balluff and, and other folks on that using our IIoTA. But there is a large push right now and we talked in the last podcast about one of the things that's happening, that's leading toward, has is emphasizing or, or making the pain point even larger of this labor shortage is the fact that we are seeing the generation they call the baby boomers exit the workforce. And we'll continue to see that across the next five, six years, in mass droves. And so, when they leave, their experience leaves, and as I said in the last podcast, we have not done a good job. I think psychologically our generation came in, I can relate to some of this as a young engineer, and the baby boomers were already in place. And sometimes not always, but sometimes, oftentimes, I would say, when we would try to express a new idea or understand how something works, we were met with, I'll take care of that, you take care of this other thing over here. 


Beth Elliott  7:15  

Oh, so you don't get to learn that.


Brandon Ellis  7:17  

We didn't get to learn it. And after a while, we just subsided and said, fine, you take care of it and we'll take care of this other stuff. And now, as a result, we have not done a good job of insisting that we understand those things and passing that down. Some of us have had the opportunity to learn it anyway. I was fortunate enough to be one of those because my mentality is I want to understand, I want to know what you know, more out of intrigue than anything. And so, there are things we, I even see now with our people as I come in and I refer to older things. I actually met with a customer, an engineer, and she was referring to DOS computers and things of that nature. Now she's very young. And I was like, wow. And she's like, it's really old technology and I said it is old technology. But you know, the fact is, your value is going up because you know, the old ways of doing things and the old ways of troubleshooting those things. And we're that's a skill that's perishing right now. And so, I truly believe that's the case. But anyway, circling back to the point, what I'm hearing is AI.


Beth Elliott  8:34  

Okay, the artificial intelligence


Brandon Ellis  8:36  

Artificial intelligence. That was the wrong one. No, no, no, no, that's the wrong one too. I'm getting my sound effects in though.


Beth Elliott  8:45  

You sure are.


Brandon Ellis  8:47  

There we go. Artificial Intelligence. Sorry, guys, you had to endure


Beth Elliott  8:52  

A lot of sound.


Brandon Ellis  8:53  

A lot of sound effects. Well, I'm making up for my not using them for a while, I can't remember. It's been too long.


Beth Elliott  8:59  

It has.


Brandon Ellis  9:00  

All I have for sound effects for those that want to know how the magic happens in the studios here at podcasting centers of elliTek is I have six buttons with numbers. And I should write a little note to say which one is, but my memory is, is failing. Anyway, AI, artificial intelligence, being able to utilize artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is when a machine learns, okay. It's not a slow process, because the way machines learn is they take a lot of goods that we have to tell them are goods, they take a lot of bad scenarios. These are all scenarios that are not exactly the same, but kind of the same.


Beth Elliott  9:37  

But you said it's not a slow process? 


Brandon Ellis  9:39  

It's not. It's I'm sorry, it's not a short process is what I should have said. Thank you for correcting me. The reason the baby boomers have 30 years-experience is because of 30 years.


Beth Elliott  9:49  

Yeah, that's a lot. That's a lot of time to learn.


Brandon Ellis  9:53  

That's right. And AI machines, being not human, we have to give them memories because experience is based upon remembering a past experience, right? That's wisdom. And that's what we're after. So, there's a push for companies to try to use AI to create a tool for those who lack experience to be able to tell them what to do. Kind of a Siri for 


Beth Elliott  10:17  

Oh, for machines? 


Brandon Ellis  10:18  

For machines, and to take the place for age old experience. Now what we're talking about is, and I don't know if you've ever met these kind of folks, but they can walk in, maybe it's a, maybe it's a mechanic, but maybe it's somebody at the plant floor. It's the same thing, where they walk in and they hear something, they feel something, they see something, and they can instantly tell you, oh, you have a problem with this, you need to go, you need a new water pump, you need whatever, you know, they can tell you just from experience. That's what the push is right now is to try to create an artificial intelligence that's capable of telling someone without experience, what the baby boomers are no longer going to be around to tell you and that is quite a task. But to use your word for the last, I think from the last podcast, that's fantastical.


Beth Elliott  11:13  

Well, I guess it can be done. I mean, it'll take a while though, won't it?


Brandon Ellis  11:17  

Well, it will take a while. Now, it won't take as long as the 30-year veteran, because humans also forget. And, and assuming you have enough memory, and a quick enough processor, because a computer won't forget. So, it's going to remember, it's going to be able to scan through every memory that you've given it. So, it's a shorter process there. But then the algorithms are trying to determine the difference between Okay, this is kind of a good and kind of a bad, what is it? That's the complexity.


Beth Elliott  11:53  

Would people still need to be involved in that for some


Brandon Ellis  11:57  

To start with. 


Beth Elliott  11:58  

okay, okay, 


Brandon Ellis  11:59  

Because we have to, as humans, we have to tell it, this is a good, this is a bad. And so, all AI systems, I mean, there's, there's a lot of sensors out there, that will set up fairly quickly. Now, vision sensors, it's not a vision system, it's a vision sensor that use AI. And so they're snapping images, but we have to give them so many goods and judge, help them judge goods in the original setup. If you really want to get it set up and working fantastical, then you really need to devote some time to get, you know, quite a few goods and quite a few bad's. It could take hours. It could take days. If it's according to the type of application, it might take weeks, months or years. But I mean, literally the more memories they have, the more the algorithm has to work with. 


Beth Elliott  12:50  

And the better the AI then.


Brandon Ellis  12:51  

The better the decision making. 


Beth Elliott  12:53  



Brandon Ellis  12:54  

More experience. And that's what you're trying to do is programmatically give an artificial thing experience. And that sounds really great. The problem is, why are we having to do this, and that's, that's we're paying for what we did, we're having to try and do these things, because we failed to get that information transferred down to the younger generation. But if it works.


Beth Elliott  13:20  

If it works, there's I mean, there's hope then, I mean, 


Brandon Ellis  13:22  

There's two schools of thought, like I said, there's always a pro and a con. But essentially, on the one side, we're giving an excuse to not have experience, to not rebuild what we're trying to emulate. And the way, essentially this, this scenario would be teaching someone to use a calculator, so they don't have to learn math. And, unfortunately, that results, I think, in someone who's less knowledgeable.


Beth Elliott  13:52  

I agree. Because you don't, you don't understand the concepts behind it.


Brandon Ellis  13:56  

That's right. And, and it's missing those concepts. And I don't think, until someone can actually develop something you've seen from the movies, that's able, a robot that's able to actually fix itself, actually build more of itself, replicate itself, which I don't know that sounds like a horror movie.


Beth Elliott  14:15  



Brandon Ellis  14:17  

Until you, you've got that kind of Cyborg mind or whatever that's called. And in some cases, I mean, we're getting close. Look at AGVs - AGVs make decisions all the time.


Beth Elliott  14:27  

Now, what are AGVs? 


Brandon Ellis  14:29  

Automatic guided vehicles 


Beth Elliott  14:30  

Okay, okay. Oh, those are neat.


Brandon Ellis  14:33  

Well, and that's something we'll be talking about sometime in the future. But yeah, I mean, used to they just followed a magnetic tape on the floor. The ones nowadays that we're doing actually have sensors and they can look out and they can tell people from posts and things of that nature and they know their environment. If you've been on LinkedIn, you've seen the folks that have the autonomous robots and they have that dog, dog robot. It's usually yellow and black in the color. And a friend of mine went to work for them and I need to grab my phone. I can't remember, the name of the company has left me, but they make these fantastic things. Oh, it's Boston, Boston 


Beth Elliott  15:12  



Brandon Ellis  15:13  

Boston Dynamics. That's it. So, a friend of mine, old customer and friend of mine is working for them now. So, I follow him, and I get to see a lot of this stuff. But those beings, whatever those are, those the stand-up biped robots or whatever they call them are the four-legged dog looking robots. They make decisions. They go, they go on a path. And they can say, oh, that stairs, I'm going to climb stairs now. I'm going to jump over this. I'm going to squat and go below this. They make decisions. And so that kind of stuff is there. It's really interesting. 


Beth Elliott  15:48  

Wow, that's just that, that blows my mind. It really does.


Brandon Ellis  15:52  

So, but yeah, so that that AI component and trying to do that is something that in manufacturing, specifically that really, we're trying to work on. And elliTek is trying to work on that as well. And so that's not something that's ready for release anywhere. I mean, that's, that's trying to do our part to use the products that we've got to help customers as they're trying to develop, that are into developing those types of things. But that's what I've heard, what have you heard?


Beth Elliott  16:20  

Well, I've got some new data that was released earlier this month.


Brandon Ellis  16:24  

Beth data. 


Beth Elliott  16:25  

Yes. No, this is actually from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It finds that US manufacturing bounce back from April's job losses, adding 23,000 jobs in May. However, a separate labor report finds that job openings in the US manufacturing sector has hit an all-time record of 700,000 jobs, 700,000 jobs. That's huge. That's a lot to fill. So that brings us to today's title. And today's title is "Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To... Be Doom and Gloom". 


Brandon Ellis  17:05  



Beth Elliott  17:05  

So, we're going to focus on how elliTek is helping manufacturers automate to overcome the labor shortages. So, Brandon, you've got some Brandology on reasons to automate. Do you want to go over those?


Brandon Ellis  17:17  

Yeah, we've gone through that before. "It Doesn't Have To... Be Hopeless" was that the podcast where I introduced, we introduced my four reasons to automate?


Beth Elliott  17:25  

I believe so.


Brandon Ellis  17:27  

So again, just to make for those that haven't, first of all Brandology is my thinking, my thoughts. It's not necessarily good advice, but it's always interesting, right? So, but four reasons to automate, and this is my, my, the things that I tell our customers and, and people who are considering automation. This is not a pick two type of situation, but it is, you cannot pick all four. You shoot for as many as you can, but one needs to be your primary reason, you may benefit across the others. But if you don't have at least one of these four, you should save your money and spend it somewhere else. And so, number one, quality and consistency. So, if a robot or automation, automated solution can do it with better quality, increase your quality of whatever you're doing, the task, or the consistency of the task, if that's the goal, a person can do it, but they can't do it as well, as if we automate it, for whatever reason, then that's, that's something. Decreased cycle time or increase in production, just number of parts out the door. So, if it can do it faster. A person can do it, but it can do it faster. Reduce labor, we always say reclassify labor, especially with the labor shortages today. Because of those 700,000 jobs. I don't know what the current statistic would say. But I would guess that roughly 50 to 60% of them have workers, potential workers. So right now, nationwide, across all jobs, we mentioned in the last podcast, you know, that of all the jobs that are available. I can't remember the exact statistic we had last time, but it was roughly half, half as many workers. I think it was roughly eight million.


Beth Elliott  19:21  

Yeah. And there was 4 million workers.


Brandon Ellis  19:22  

Yeah, so it's roughly 50% of workers to fill 8 million jobs. And so, you're not going to get there from here. And so, there is a very real labor shortage. So, getting back to the four reasons to be able to reclassify the labor that you have. And we talked about in the last podcast, how I'm a proponent for instead of you spending your dollars, raising your wages to try to entice people to come to work for you or to pull them away from other industries, which is what you're doing if you have only 50% workforce. Now is a good time to, first of all, I would take care of the people you have and just make sure that they stay. And then number two, I would take the balance of the budget and start looking at making automation. 


Beth Elliott  19:28  

You said money is cheap. 


Brandon Ellis  20:09  

Money is cheap right now, from a rate standpoint. It's not going to stay that way. Inflation is also very real, and it's happening. I would, based upon the economic analysis, analysts that I follow, that I respect and follow, there's many that are assuming that roughly this time next year, or maybe soon after Q3, Q4 of 2022, we will see a significant rate increase as far as prime rate and so that's going to affect the cost of money. So now, now, money is very cheap, it's a good way to do it, a good time to do it. But reclassifying this labor by, you know, taking care of the menial tasks, those kind of things, which we'll talk more about. But that's a good reason to automate. And then lastly, flexibility, quick setup. Now really, that has to do with, when I come up with that, I'm talking about change overs and things of that nature that take place with machines that that are, have multiple, run multiple parts. So maybe they have tool changes and things of that nature. Sometimes we can use servo driven actuators and things of that nature, even robots. And basically say, okay, you were running this part, now you're running this part and the machine back stops, change automatically, tool nest relocate, things of that nature, move, slide over, whatever, to accept the new part versus the old part without having to have someone come in 


Beth Elliott  21:39  

Oh, and do it manually.


Brandon Ellis  21:40  

Manually retool and change the setup and everything like that. So that saves time. It also, that's the Quick Setup part. But also, it reduces labor.


Beth Elliott  21:50  

Yeah, you don't have to have somebody go over there and change it.


Brandon Ellis  21:52  

That's right. So those four things, quality, increased quality, decreased cycle time, reclassification of labor, and, you know, quick setup or flexibility of an existing machine to retool quickly. Those are really four primary reasons that I can come up with to automate and it needs, your focus needs to include at least one of those. Now, if you do the quick setup, we just said you also have the benefit of potentially reducing labor. You also have the benefit of increased production, because it's reduced time. You also may have the benefit of quality because it gets it's consistently, you know, set to a consistent point. So, your benefits can certainly span.


Beth Elliott  22:36  

Yeah, they can overlap each other, but 


Brandon Ellis  22:38  

It can, but you need to go into it with one primary thing. If increasing quality is your primary objective, then you can't get upset if you don't decrease, if it takes longer. 


Beth Elliott  22:49  

Okay, yeah.


Brandon Ellis  22:50  

You, see?


Beth Elliott  22:51  

Yeah, I understand.


Brandon Ellis  22:52  

Because you've got that you may have to, you may see benefits across multiples, but you may also have to compromise a bit. But pick your focus. Why are we really doing this? So that's what I would say. So Brandology.


Beth Elliott  23:11  

So, let's go through some automation from like office. So, I like it. Let's take this job and automate it.


Brandon Ellis  23:19  

Okay, so hold on a second. So, so alright, so you're, I'm looking at your outline here. So, so you're talking about ways to I mean, these are essentially I'm reading into the outline, ways to battle, the labor shortage.


Beth Elliott  23:33  

To contend with the labor shortage, yeah.


Brandon Ellis  23:34  

And you're going by department? 


Beth Elliott  23:35  



Brandon Ellis  23:36  

Within the manufacturing


Beth Elliott  23:37  

Yes. We'll go from office to the floor. 


Brandon Ellis  23:41  

Okay. Okay. 


Beth Elliott  23:41  

To the maintenance to the IT 


Brandon Ellis  23:44  



Beth Elliott  23:45  

All right. 


Brandon Ellis  23:45  

So, we're covering multiple departments. So, there's, there's a flavor for everyone. And if you're the plant manager, grab your pencil and paper.


Beth Elliott  23:54  

So, what, for the office, we've talked about the office, how they can 


Brandon Ellis  23:58  

Take this job and automate it. So, we're talking about RPAs.


Beth Elliott  24:04  

Yes. The Robotic Process Automation, but not what we would say. 


Brandon Ellis  24:08  

Yeah, not not robots. But still, the four reasons to automate can still come into play. So, RPAs, that's not something we here at elliTek really do. As far as we don't sell or create RPA processes. An RPA process is basically taking a typically repeatable slash menial task. So as a scenario if someone in I'll pick a department accounting, their job every morning is to open up the accounting software, to open up the I don't know the inventory. You know, the inventory numbers from the inventory control ERP system or whatever, and maybe pull some production numbers from a report coming off the floor and copy and paste in some data into a spreadsheet, and then save that as a PDF, and then email it out to a distribution. If that's their job every morning and it's always they're clicking in the same places and grabbing some of the same stuff, then RPAs are software's. They're not robots. They're robotic, meaning it's a software-based product that watches their computer. And they can record process of opening this program, opening this file, copying this, you know, this section, all that stuff, it has to be repeatable, can be recorded, and made to happen. Either a person can click a button and make it happen. Or it can even be made to happen automatically, at a certain time, every day, or things of that nature. And so, something that may take 30 minutes to do, can now be totally done automatically. And so those types of processes can be taking, taken off of the responsibilities of certain folks in the office, and now reclassify their time, whether it be 30 minutes every day, an hour every day, something like that to do something else. That is not 


Beth Elliott  25:15  

It can't be automated like that.


Brandon Ellis  26:05  

It's not easily automated. Yeah, and so RPAs are becoming more and more popular. 


Beth Elliott  26:12  

Since we did that podcast, there are a ton more companies that offer this, it's incredible.


Brandon Ellis  26:18  

Because of our podcast? 


Beth Elliott  26:19  

Yeah, exactly.


Brandon Ellis  26:24  

That's not true.


Beth Elliott  26:25  

That was funny though.


Brandon Ellis  26:29  

All because of our podcast, we have spurred the industry with our influence. Okay, so, but that's. So, RPAs, that's, that's probably the main one for the office department.


Beth Elliott  26:42  

That's, that's all I think of for that. 


Brandon Ellis  26:44  

You know. And then part of part of RPAs, again, if you're pulling production information from the floor, that's where honestly, we've helped customers with our IIoTA, to be able to automatically pull a lot of whether it's production data, machine data, process data, that kind of stuff, uptime, downtime, I don't know what kind of KPIs they're pulling, but to grab a lot of that, because a lot of that is derived from the machine equipment itself. And so, it's still in a lot of companies, they have team leaders, shift leaders, those folks whose job at the end of the shift is to go through on each one of the machines with a sheet of paper and write down numbers that they see that are displayed on the operator interfaces on the machines and things of that nature. Our IIoTA, if it's especially if it's a PLC based system, or even if it's robot based for certain, not all robots but certain robots, we have such connectivity, that at the end of shift, that can be done automatically. And also, very accurately,


Beth Elliott  27:44

Imagine the time that would save.


Brandon Ellis  27:46  

Yeah, and then you can do that, actually, you can do that at the end of each cycle and update a record through the day. And so now you have what we call real time data, and not just waiting, having to wait till the next day or at the end of the shift to see what those numbers are. And so, if that same production data is key to the RPA, then the IIoTA can offer further automation to at least populate the data coming from the manufacturing floor.


Beth Elliott  28:12  

Nice. Nice. So, talking about the manufacturing floor, what are some ways on the manufacturing floor that can be automated?


Brandon Ellis  28:21  

You know, our focus, of course of this podcast is the labor shortage and how to battle labor shortage. One of the first things that I and I have had the opportunity to walk through actually, I love walking through plants, if they're not, unless they're really nasty. I love walking through plants and seeing what's going on and seeing how they're doing things and, and honestly learning from their production engineers and their manufacturing managers, production managers. Because production engineering, manufacturing engineering, managing that is a is more of a game of logistics, and people management than it has anything to do with the individual machines that are being built or the lines that are being built. And so sometimes as a systems integration or machine build company, it's easy to get tunnel vision because we only focus, we zoom in on a single machine or a single process or a single line.


Beth Elliott  29:14  

You gotta step back.


Brandon Ellis  29:15  

And you got to step back and look at the entire plant. And to watch how the flow works is it's an engineering feat unto itself. And so, we actually have talked with a few people. And I'll say this, this was this was me watching and learning and seeing something where I thought was pretty cool. Where some equipment that we actually had had built and supplied some years ago, just by changing the layout on the floor. They were able to set it up so that one person could run the machines versus two people.


Beth Elliott  29:51  

Oh, so you didn't even have to automate that.


Brandon Ellis  29:53  

That didn't even need to I mean; it was automated as far as the machine itself. But as, so there was but there was ample time that if you reduce what we call, remember when we talked about all the different KPIs and the equations of OEE, and things of that nature? One of the classifications took into account what we call walk, walk 


Beth Elliott  30:13  

Walk time


Brandon Ellis  30:14  

Walk time. And so, if you reduce your walk time, now all of a sudden, a person may be able to keep up with two machines without killing them. But you, you know, it's the difference between, you know, trying to do something in one room in the house and trying to do something in another room of the house, if you could just scoot those two processes together in the same room, then now all of a sudden, you can easily get those things done, if you don't have to run up and down the hallway. And so just considering alternate layouts, reevaluate your layouts, and I'm sure every production engineer that's listening to this is like, duh, we've been doing that for last, you know, three months, you know, that kind of thing. And I'm sure they are but, but that's one way to you, and you don't even you don't spend a dime on automation, you just you just change your workflow and change your labor, your layout.


Beth Elliott  31:04  

What are some other ways?


Brandon Ellis  31:06  

Well, then you can actually get into automation. So, we start getting into material handling type stuff, processing 


Beth Elliott  31:12  

This is more for, is this robots? 


Brandon Ellis  31:15  

Well, it could be 


Beth Elliott  31:16  

Oh, okay.


Brandon Ellis  31:16  

Could be robots, it could be, you know, a custom machine. Usually, custom machines cost a bit more than just sticking a robot in, especially if it's a collaborative robot. A collaborative robot needs minimized, typically minimized guarding, they do have to be guarded.


Brandon Ellis  31:21  

Do they?


Brandon Ellis  31:29  

They have to be guarded. And again, as our podcast, "It Doesn't Have To Be Unsafe", where we had Dave Rice, as a special guest, Dave with Datalogic is he manages their safety group, safety product group. But Dave was mentioning that in the United States, not Europe, but in the United States, the onus, which means the responsibility, of deciding what is safe, and what is not when it comes to equipment, falls squarely upon the user. In this case, that would be the entity that's purchasing the equipment, and is running the equipment. So, if you're purchasing the robot, albeit from elliTek, or anybody else, it's your responsibility to decide what's safe and what's not, and that includes collaborative robots. We can assist as far as product availability and assist as far as certifications and, and the documents by which the ISO documents, the OHSA documents, things of that nature, which need to be referenced. But ultimately, that has to be decided by the end user. And so, you're going to want to guard even a collaborative robot. But if you stick a collaborate robot out there, suddenly, you can get those things done for sometimes less money than creating a complete automated line or automated piece of equipment. And so, we look at menial type tasks for that repetitive just like the RPAs in the office, repetitive things that can be done fairly, fairly easily. The other thing that collaboratives do, we were talking to some, some folks just this week, about some collaborative options. And one of the emphasis that they made was, the nice thing about a collaborative option is we're still going to guard it. But as far as our maintenance folks, they don't have to be as highly trained and highly skilled, as they would be with an industrial robot to use the teach pendant, to know how to, to arrest one to come out and things of that nature to know how to polish up points because collaboratives have direct teach. And the direct teach if a robot crashes or something like that, by simply being able to put it in a direct teach mode, then they can actually grab the end of the robot and physically move it out of the place that it's in. It's possible to get a robot so cranked up if you will, as far as it's in on itself, or it's up against a bind or something, and every time you try to release, you know, power the rope the motors and release it, it faults, and that can even happen in a collaborative situation. With our collaboratives, you have the ability to do what's called mitigation, which is anti-trap. But you can actually do that. What it means is if it comes into a collision with a person or a thing, for a very short, not very short, but a short time, approximately a second after the collision, it's in this floating direct teach mode, which means that it can rebound or be pushed away. And so, it's called anti trap. Because if it comes up against a person and kind of squeezes them in the corner, and then in a typical collaborative, it will cut off and set the brakes. Well, now you're in a bind.


Beth Elliott  34:51  

Yeah, you're stuck against the wall.


Brandon Ellis  34:53  

You're stuck against the wall. Yeah. But with if you enable this what they call mitigation, the anti-trap function, then you can actually push it away. Or it'll relax away.


Beth Elliott  35:04  

And that's with the collaboratives?


Brandon Ellis  35:05  

That's with our Hanwha collaborators specifically. 


Beth Elliott  35:07  



Brandon Ellis  35:08  

Not sure if everyone has that capability. But we certainly in that model certainly does that manufacture certainly does. But, you know, so the point was, how much faster a lesser skilled maintenance tech or maintenance person could get that going again, and truth be known, it could actually be a machine associate, an operator. Because once it goes in direct teach it, it's in a floating Safe Mode, they grab it, they move it out to somebody shows them move it to this position, then come out of it, and press, you know, restart. And they can start the machine back up. And so, reducing downtime is increasing production. And also, you may have eliminated the need for someone in maintenance to have to stop what they're doing and come down there.


Beth Elliott  35:57  

Okay. That's a nice option.


Brandon Ellis  35:59  

The key for, the key for labor for beating the labor shortage has to be multi-dimensional. And just taking time, just like the RPAs in the office, taking time off someone's plate, so they have time to do something else without killing them, without all this overtime, is, is part of that. That's, that's one of the dimensions. And so, sometimes automation isn't just about the choice isn't just about, you know, how fast can we get things through, or reclassify labor. But it's also about, again, you mentioned in the last podcast, what companies are doing to keep their people is reducing their workload. And so, workload reduction is certainly that. And then also, just like this AI thing that then I went on about a few minutes ago, to be able to, we're having to reduce the skill set required in order to get things done. And so certainly, if you are creative with your collaborative robots, you can do that.


Beth Elliott  36:57  

So, what are some, what are some the types of automation that folks can look at to do?


Brandon Ellis  37:02  

Well, pick and place, material handling, I mentioned that. So if you're taking things out of one, uncrating them and stacking them or stacking them something like that coming off a line, you may have to have vision systems involved, you may have to have your, you may have to have a company like elliTek that's got the integration capabilities to assist you with that, or one of the many machine builders that we support or, and work with wonderful East Tennessee area or even beyond. You may have to have someone involved with that, so again it's an investment. Vision systems to see where things are, so that the robots can come in and get them. But basically to, to, to do those, you know, easier picking places, or palletizing, and things of that nature, so we call that material handling. In addition, there's also processes, so spraying something on. I'm not necessarily talking about paints and things of that nature, because that's a, that's a bit of an exact science, as well as for and also, it'll blow up sometimes. But if you're spraying on a lubricant, if you're applying grease, you're applying glue, dispensing applications, those types of processes, even actually, surface prep. So there's a whole industry of using robots for sanding, and polishing surfaces and things of that nature, those are processes. Assembly and inspection, so just picking parts up and dropping them into the jig, that kind of thing. Especially if you've got if you've got manual labor situations where you're, you're just loading parts in a certain orientation, you know, for there's a company that, that we worked with that basically, when it comes time to actually, there's, there's an even better example, it just came to me. For me, I have to say, I saw this on TV, okay, except I've seen the products. But when you go in for surgery, the nurse, I'm sorry if I'm getting the classifications wrong, but there's the surgeon and then whoever's assisting the surgeon, but they set the operating room is set up with all the tools in a certain orientation on certain trays in certain places. And so, you know, in that, that means they know exactly where everything is. There's consistency there. Well, those are typically done by human hands at the companies that put those together,


Beth Elliott  39:20  

Oh, so they're already wrapped up kits. 


Brandon Ellis  39:23  

Yeah, they come as kits because they're totally sanitized and ready to go. And they're all disposable tools. That is something I believe, assuming the gripping means are there and things of that nature for the end of arm tooling, that would be easily done by a collaborative robot.


Beth Elliott  39:41  

And they wouldn't mess up either, because a person could easily misplace.


Brandon Ellis  39:46  

Grab the wrong tool, or miss one altogether, something like that. And so at least a good part of that could be, could be done as far as assembly. Or just placing parts into nests that are going into a machine to have something done to them, those kind of things. Instead of having a person do that, having a robot do that is a possibility. Now, not everything is meant to be automated. But if you can find more menial type things through your plant, doing an evaluation, that's one way to do it. And then also inspection. So, we talked about vision as far as just guiding vision guided robots. Well, this is more about checking to see if things are where they're supposed to be. Sometimes just taking one snapshot from a fixed position is not enough. Sometimes you need to look around it, look at different spots, different areas, and for different things. And so, we've been doing that for many, many years with industrial robots. And you can actually do that quite easily with collaborative robots as well.


Beth Elliott  40:39  

They've got AI in there too. Right?


Brandon Ellis  40:42  

The vision? 


Beth Elliott  40:42  



Brandon Ellis  40:43  

They can. It's according to the to the manufacturer. But, but even if they don't, once the vision system has been set up at the different positions, you can go from there. Vision is its own science. So, we have our we have a lot of people that know vision very well, I don't want to discount Alan. But he will not get upset at me for saying Julie is fantastic at vision. And the reason is, because she's passionate about vision. It's one of the things she really likes to do. Alan is passionate about GUI development. He does a great job on that. But everybody has their passions. And so, but Julie does a great job with our vision stuff. And so then, of course, there's IoT. You know, we talked about our Data Commander, we've talked about the IIoTA, mentioned it for RPA stuff. But yeah, that's just, that's moving data from plant floor to the ERP system and vice versa, for whatever reason. It could be recipes to set up for getting setups down to your to machines quickly. It could be just getting information back to let you know, what's going on with your processes, the machines themselves, if they're down, if they're up, if it can tie in with the condition monitoring systems that we've worked with, so that they can notify and, and visualize those things. So IoT is becoming more and more of a presence and nearly a requirement. And then we, I mentioned earlier, AGVs.


Beth Elliott  42:10  

I want to hear more about the, it's Automated Guided Vehicles?


Brandon Ellis  42:14  

Yeah. What did I say?


Beth Elliott  42:16  

I don't know, I think you said automated. I thought it was automatic, but it's automated. 


Brandon Ellis  42:20  

Automated. Yeah. So AGVs have been around for a while, like I said, the older styles, put, we would put magnetic tape or even sometimes glue down, epoxy down a wire, you know, something like that, that they would follow. And they just have sensors that are kind of like, you know, following a rail so to speak. But the new AGVs are programmable kind of like, what's the thing that vacuums your house? I don't have one.


Beth Elliott  42:44  

Oh, no, I don't either. Oh, is it the iRobot? Yeah, 


Brandon Ellis  42:47  

Is Roomba one? 


Beth Elliott  42:51  

Roomba, yeah.


Brandon Ellis  42:52  

So, kind of like that. Where but that's really it's learning your house.


Beth Elliott  42:57  

You have to program it in there don't ya? Because my in-laws got one and they gave it back.


Brandon Ellis  43:10  

Oh, because of the programming requirement. 


Beth Elliott  43:12  



Brandon Ellis  43:13  

So AGVs, they have to also be programmed. And so, but once they're programmed, they're also capable of looking for certain things. So, they can see people step in front of them, they can stop, they can, they can make decisions to say something's in my way, I'm going to navigate around it, things of that nature. And traditionally, they're used to just, you set something on it, and it takes it over to a machine and a person unloads it. Well, one of the things we're starting to work with, specifically with Hanwha is an AGV that now supports the robot.


Beth Elliott  43:53  

Oh, the robot is on top of the AGV? 


Brandon Ellis  43:56  

It rides around. So, the AGV is it's wheels, man.


Beth Elliott  44:00  



Brandon Ellis  44:01  

It's its ride. So, you know, it's kicking the tunes going down, down the way. So now all of a sudden, if there's stuff loaded, it pulls up to the machine and instead of a person unloading it and loading it into the magazines or whatever on the machine, it begins, it the collaborative does the unloading or loading. And then it's basically giving an arm to the AGV. 


Beth Elliott  44:30  

That's smart.


Brandon Ellis  44:31  

So, there's a lot that's got to go into play with that. They both have to work together. It's a bit of a thing. So, there are companies that make AGVs and there's companies that make collaborative robots, but Hanwha has both and has released both. And so that's kind of a new product for them. It's new, coming new to the US.


Beth Elliott  44:48  

But weren't they, Hanwha was the first to have the AGVs in South Korea, correct? 


Brandon Ellis  44:54  

I don't know. 


Beth Elliott  44:55  

Okay, I'll check on that.


Brandon Ellis  44:57  

I trust your data. 


Beth Elliott  44:59  

Well, I don't trust my memory.


Brandon Ellis  45:02  

I don't know the answer to that. But that'd be interesting to know. But anyway, so not trying to sell our products so much, but 


Beth Elliott  45:09  

It's interesting.


Brandon Ellis  45:10  

It's a labor reduction point to be able to do that, to give the robot wheels.


Beth Elliott  45:16  

That's nice. And then that would, instead of a person having to walk around and do all that, loading and unloading, that's nice. So, what about the maintenance side? Are you Are you done with that?


Brandon Ellis  45:25  

Yeah, I think that's, that's quite a lot for the manufacturing floor. 


Beth Elliott  45:29  

It is.


Brandon Ellis  45:29  

Of course, that's,


Beth Elliott  45:30  

That's our main


Brandon Ellis  45:31  

That's our main focus. Yeah, the maintenance department. And so again, this comes back to I would say, the condition monitoring. But we are actually working with a couple companies. We had mentioned them in the past Pathways 7, Keary Donovan, with his, I think he calls it critical, Mission Critical Parts, is what his solution is going to be or he's putting together and beginning to market. He works closely with companies that have, you know, using condition monitoring sensors and things of that nature. And then is partnering with a CMMS company, that CMMS is central, is it Central Maintenance Management Software?


Beth Elliott  46:13  



Brandon Ellis  46:14  

Computerized. I always get the C wrong.


Beth Elliott  46:16  

Well, I have a cheat sheet over here.


Brandon Ellis  46:20  

Computerized Maintenance Management, I always call them Maintenance Management Software's, I always leave the C off anyway,


Beth Elliott  46:26  

It's System, Computerized


Brandon Ellis  46:28  

Maintenance Management System.


Beth Elliott  46:30  



Brandon Ellis  46:30  

Okay. So, your CMMS software, CMMS software's one company in particular, that he's working with closely to. And I think he picked them because they have a hosted, most everybody's cloud-based I guess. Now, I'm not an expert on this, so please forgive me our listeners if I get this wrong. But they have a hosted solution versus cloud-based solution. In manufacturing, especially with Colonial Pipeline and all of the cybersecurity and ransomware events that have just been going rampant. A hosted solution is now considered even more ideal. And so essentially, what this will do is, is and it utilizes our IIoTA product is one of the basis points. And so, when things start going awry, from the condition monitoring sensors, it will take it one step further. Kind of like the AGV having an arm, in his case, it'll take it one step further and communicate, it's able to communicate directly with CMMS software, and create work request, create purchase request, create all these things automatically. The CMMS software does that. But the interaction says this is the asset, this is the concern point, this is the, what we need you to do that kind of stuff. And so, all of that will happen automatically.


Beth Elliott  47:50  

Oh, nice. And then, does it order the parts and stuff like that?


Brandon Ellis  47:53  

If they, and that comes down to the CMMS software. But if they set it up to do that I, you know, and then it would take from there. The key is bridging that gap, to be able to monitor multiple condition monitoring sensors, and not just visualize it, not just send a text or an email, but actually interact with a maintenance management software, like this CMMS software, I'm trying to remember, I think it's called MVP plant. Or maybe that's their product. I'm sorry, I don't, I should know that. I didn't mean, I didn't expect to mention them. But I'm happy to and really, if you want more information on that contact, Keary Donovan at Pathways 7.


Beth Elliott  47:54  

I'll have a link to Keary's info on the show notes.


Brandon Ellis  48:40  

Shout out, Keary. But Keary's working very hard on that. And we're working very diligently with him to help him succeed with that, but it's a great thing. Because there's, 


Beth Elliott  48:52  

Well, the maintenance person wouldn't have to go running around to each machine checking it and then having to go place the order and then you'd have you said like before the unplanned downtime, you would, you would have scheduled downtime.


Brandon Ellis  49:06  

In every, in every manufacturing facility that I've been a part of in the last 25 years, you have your ERP systems that are running all the management systems. You have some sentiment of manufacturing production services, which may be people entering stuff, unless they're using our IIoTA. And then you have a software platform totally separate isolated software platform that handles the maintenance stuff. And so, it's doing work requests, it's it may or may not be saying these are the parts you need. It may or may not be working with your inventory, your tool crib managers and things of that nature. But it is its primary job is to schedule a work, you know, a work request so that they can plan for a scheduled downtime. And then make sure that enough hours are allotted. Make sure all the parts that need to be there are there. And then keep up with, you know, basically the workload. So manage the resources, if you will. You've only got so many maintenance folks and so you can't say fix everything now. You have to mitigate that and schedule that. And so that's where those software's come into play. They're pretty powerful. They're basically a little, little ERP systems of their own. But to be able to bridge that gap from monitoring on the machines, and also take it a step further, even if you're not using condition monitoring, be able to talk directly to the machines themselves. And if they start having the same error over and over, or failures on a certain piece of tooling, or something like that, if you're able to know which tooling, then that could be kept up with and once it once it achieves within the IIoTA and once it achieves a certain level of occurrences, after so many occurrences within a certain amount of time or something like that, you could set that up to then kick a work request and say this fixture needs to be reworked or something along those lines. So that's certainly a place that or places machine condition monitoring, CMMS integrations.


Beth Elliott  49:43  

Is there one other one, you talked about 


Brandon Ellis  51:11  



Beth Elliott  51:12  

Yea, you had a different term for it, bleeding


Brandon Ellis  51:15  

The bleeding edge. AI is the bleeding edge.


Beth Elliott  51:18  

So, the term bleeding edge, so we got cutting edge, and then you go further, because


Brandon Ellis  51:25  

So, bleeding edge means that this is still in its infancy. And that is trying to use again, that artificial intelligence aspect. Just like with the baby boomers and trying to do predictive stuff to further learn. We, you know, we talked in in what was it, "It Doesn't Have To Be Unmonitored", I think where we were talking about the condition monitoring systems, about why not take it a step further and not just be a monitor, but fix it. 


Beth Elliott  51:59  

That's right


Brandon Ellis  51:59  

Be a fixer. AI leads to that fixing. What does a fix look like? What is an okay fix and what is not an okay fix? What scenario merits one of those? So, there's a lot of experience that comes into play there. And so, the key to AI is giving, you can't sell, I can't sell you a monitoring system that knows how to fix your problem at whatever plant you're in. Because your plant is unique to your plant. And this process is unique to that process. But there's people there that have that experience to know, you can change this, and it'll fix that, or if this happens, do this and it'll fix that, or it'll help with that, or whatever. That's that experience. And so, you have to really, I think with AI, it's going to have to be giving an easy, simple and quick means of letting someone with a human with that experience, like we talked about, teach it as you're going, that's a good this is a good solution. In this scenario, snapshot, that scenario, this is how you fix it. In this scenario, this is how you would fix it. This is the adjustment that you make. Those kind of things, or in this scenario, do nothing. You know, those kind of things. That's learning. It's just like teaching a person. We have to teach. We have to be able to teach this processor. And that's, that's in its infancy. Not new, been working on a long time. 


Beth Elliott  53:26  

It seems complicated. 


Brandon Ellis  53:28  

But it is extremely complicated because you're trying to teach a machine how to think. And that's not an easily, easily done thing.


Beth Elliott  53:36  

So, what about the IT department? How can that be automated?


Brandon Ellis  53:40  

Well, IT is IoT, man. I mean, that's, but also, you know, one of the things you know, we we've talked about getting the data from the production floor to make the reports and all that kind of thing easier. We've talked about, you know, the term, marketing term smart factories, where you have all this connectivity and things of that nature. And why do we have an IoT system? I can't remember that podcast, It Doesn't Have To Be Complicated or Overwhelming or something.


Beth Elliott  54:10  

I'm looking through the list. It Doesn't Have To Be Overwhelming


Brandon Ellis  54:13  



Beth Elliott  54:13  

That was our second podcast.


Brandon Ellis  54:15  

Oh, really? We were talking about IoT. And one of the things we talked about was why do an IoT system, so kind of the Brandology.


Beth Elliott  54:22  

Hey, I remember now. 


Brandon Ellis  54:24  



Beth Elliott  54:24  

Cause I wrote it down, to make better business decisions. 


Brandon Ellis  54:27  

That's exactly right. IoT was invented to make better business decisions, to look at what your what your process is, and help management make more educated decisions about going forward. That really is the nature of IoT. But now the IT department, they've so they've been tasked with connectivity for the last years.


Beth Elliott  54:52  

Secure connectivity 


Brandon Ellis  54:53  

But now, they're busy, busy, busy with cybersecurity. And so that's where our IIoTA is suddenly becoming extremely popular again most among folks, IT departments is because of its hardened cybersecurity, that comes with the hardware. That is of utmost importance to be able to, you know, Colonial Pipeline, their accounting systems were hacked, but they weren't sure that it got to the actual systems that would essentially be the same in a manufacturing plant as saying, the OT side or the manufacturing floor. If you can isolate that as well as possible, hopefully, completely, and the IIoTA is basically a complete isolation, then you can mitigate a lot of that those chances. I don't want to say concern, so always have concern, but you're going to mitigate the chance of it happening. That makes their job easier, takes the workload off of them. And that is that is the goal of today's topic.


Beth Elliott  55:58  

Yeah. So, what about, do you have any other examples of ways manufacturers can automate?


Brandon Ellis  56:07  

It's not about just automating. It's right now, it's about saving money. 


Beth Elliott  56:10  

Being more efficient? 


Brandon Ellis  56:12  

Not, not saving money. But reclassifying budget. 


Beth Elliott  56:16  

Oh, okay


Brandon Ellis  56:17  

Is what I would say. So just we're talking about reduction in labor, reduction in labor isn't necessarily getting rid of people. It's taking the workload off the people you have, so that they can manage within a reasonable time. So, we're trying to also avoid overtime, within a reasonable time without killing them, they can manage more skilled work, that's that would be difficult, if not impossible, extremely expensive to automate, by taking that up. And so by the same token, if you can find means within the plant to save money, to reduce cost, then now that money can be re-budgeted, to, to spend on automation, to invest in the people you have. And then ultimately, if you have to adjust wages to get new people coming in and increase their wage.


Beth Elliott  57:07  

So how do people do that?


Brandon Ellis  57:08  

So, one of the ways, and this has happened, this is not new. It's not some new revelation. But now there's a new reason to do there's new motivation. And that is, and elliTek doesn't get into this as much. But there are companies out there, fantastic companies that do that. It's to do an energy audit.


Beth Elliott  57:28  

Oh, I bet, yeah, yeah, I can totally see that.


Brandon Ellis  57:30  

So, we talked a little bit about being greener. But being greener can be, you know, again, invest in a wind farm. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about have a company come in that actually can monitor your energy usage. Now energy comes in a lot of different ways. It's not just electricity, electricity is one, water usage, you know, power usage, certainly. But also, this comes down to the air usage. We talked about the compressed air and things of that nature. If you can find a way you know, I have a good, good scenario on this we, we, actually I was involved with back when it was called the Data Commander, a company had set up with an energy audit company, they had gone in and they had on their I guess they It was a consultant that basically said you should do this. And they were doing it. So, they started installing various, in this case, it was electrical, they were monitoring electrical usage among certain primary processes, machine processes, manufacturing processes within the plant. And they were measuring the power usage by measuring current and things that nature and so we can equate wattage from that. And so, we were just there to pull, to pull this information and put it all together. And we put it together with the actual process information, so production information. So, every time we're making a widget, we're grabbing the average power for that widget that's being used. And we're putting that all together. Well, when they looked at it, what they realized was they had a few products, not all of them. But a few, I think it was two specific products that required a pretty intense heating, in this case heating stage. And so, heating, a resistive heating means you're just dumping electricity into some coils, resistive coils, they heat up, that's like your space heater, and then they heat the part. And so, in this case, or the die or whatever, the tooling you're using whatever the process is. It required some and maybe with I don't even know the machines at this point, I just we were handling the data part. It has been some time ago. But what they learned was, by simply, they ran three shifts. So, if you're, everybody I think is familiar with this, but especially in an industrial for as far as industrial companies using utilities, they have peak times when every kilowatt hour costs more than the non-peak times. Usually, the non-peak times are in the middle of the night. And so, by simply, in their case, changing the shift schedule of when they produce these two specific products to third shift, moving it to a third shift production versus first shift production, and then moving, you know, offsetting that with the third shift production moving that first shift. So that they made those parts during the day, they were able to realize a cost savings of utilities of about 10 to 15%.


Beth Elliott  1:00:27  



Brandon Ellis  1:00:28  

That's real money 


Beth Elliott  1:00:28  

That is huge.


Brandon Ellis  1:00:29  

Just by taking advantage of the lower peak rates. And so, an energy audit will help you arrive at that. A lot of companies will do them for very little, you know, especially if they're trying to sell equipment, they'll do an initial audit, and then they want to, they're selling the services to come in and implement these things. So, if you want to know a lot of people will do that for low costs.


Beth Elliott  1:00:55  

You know, when we got an air conditioner, TVA came out to our house and did a whole audit of our house, it was it was extensive, it was a lot more extensive than I thought it would be.


Brandon Ellis  1:01:06  

it's in their best interest. And TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority. That's, that's our main, our main power generator in eastern Tennessee and Tennessee Valley, throughout Tennessee. You have other power generators and Duke power in the Carolinas and Georgia Power down in Georgia area and things of that nature, but all across the United States. They will happily come in and see what's going on because peak power production for them is their manufacturing as well, their manufacturing power. And so, they have to make sure that all of the transmission lines, the transformers, all that kind of stuff are running. And so, if they can take some load off of their equipment, they will happily do it. And so, a lot of times, they'll come in and do energy audits.


Beth Elliott  1:01:52  

And they actually gave us a discount.


Brandon Ellis  1:01:54  

Yeah, really? And so, so and that's residential. 


Beth Elliott  1:01:58  

It was. 


Brandon Ellis  1:01:58  

So industrial is even more so. 


Beth Elliott  1:02:00  

I would imagine. 


Brandon Ellis  1:02:01  

There's also things where we use a lot of variable frequency drives and things, those things put what's called harmonics on the line. And so, it makes for what's called a poor power factor. Now, if you want to learn about that, call the University of Tennessee enroll in Electrical and Computer Engineering, you can learn all about it. But power factor basically means efficiency of energy transfer from the utilities point of view. And so, a bad power factor means that you're making their system run less efficiency efficiently. And they will ding you for it. And so, a lot of times, they'll force you at plants to, to do what's called power factor correction. They have to add capacitive banks, inductive banks, things of that nature, whatever they need to correct this thing. It's not cheap. And especially the dings are not cheap. And so, there are times when, there are ways that you may be able to change your power factor, correct it internally without having to pay the dings. And sometimes it can be changing times of day and things of that nature, but also it can be how you're adjusting, how your manufacturing processes are working. All that will fall under an energy audit. And it can save a lot of money, in that regard. And so again, it's not about just Hey, there's extra money, let's put it in our pockets. Right now, is the time to be reinvesting, to be preparing for, this labor shortage they're, they're saying this labor shortage is going to go on for quite some time. There has been a change. And the reason that is, is, I think, is there has been a change in mentality. COVID has allowed a lot of people to enjoy early retirement, and what that feels like, and wouldn't we all love to retire in our 30s or 40s? It's a different thing. And so, I think, I think people are having a hard time getting back up and getting in the grind. And I think that's what we're seeing. And so, it's going to go on for a bit. The semiconductor shortage they're saying won't be back to normal levels until Q2 of 2022. So that's still gonna be here. I think because they're so far behind now. So, this is all the doom and gloom. Let's not focus on the doom and gloom. Let's focus on how we can get and mitigate this thing and get ahead of it. You know, if you're given lemon, make lemonade. If someone gives you, gives you a lime, find someone that has vodka, I don't know. You got to find a way to overcome this. And again, money's cheap. It's not a situation of manufacturers not having work. They have orders. 


Beth Elliott  1:04:52  

They do. 


Brandon Ellis  1:04:52  

They have a buying market. There's demand.


Beth Elliott  1:04:55  

There is a lot of demand. 


Brandon Ellis  1:04:57  

The supply of labor is in short, in short order right now. And so consider automating. Because the other thing is automation has a distinct ROI.


Beth Elliott  1:05:07  

It does.


Brandon Ellis  1:05:08  

Raising your rates and bringing other people in. I don't I don't think that's the thing to do. That's a short-term fix. But I think you take care of the people you got already. And then you and then once you get their workload reduced with automation, let's start training. 


Beth Elliott  1:05:22  

Yes, yes. 


Brandon Ellis  1:05:23  

And let's get them trained. You train them internally for the more skilled solutions. Send your maintenance folks to us for our maintenance, maintenance tech, technician troubleshooter classwork, and we'll get them up to speed on how they can add a laptop to their toolbox. And be comfortable about that. I mean, start reclassifying people. That's what we need to do.


Beth Elliott  1:05:48  

So, I've got some things to consider before automating, especially for first time automations. 


Brandon Ellis  1:05:55  

Walk us through. 


Beth Elliott  1:05:56  

Okay. So, first thing is to start small. So, you focus on one core piece to automate. So don't try to go for the whole thing all at once. 


Brandon Ellis  1:06:06  

The best way to eat an elephant


Beth Elliott  1:06:08  

One bite at a time. So, it gets the team comfortable with the automation as well. Because you don't want to, when, I think when people think automation, they automatically think I'm gonna lose my job and that's not it. You got to make them comfortable.


Brandon Ellis  1:06:23  

You're not gonna lose your job. There's eight million jobs and 4 million workers, you're not going to lose your job. Now that's not. I mean, if you act out and you deserve to lose your job, you're gonna lose your job. But embrace automation, because it's gonna make your life easier.


Beth Elliott  1:06:38  

It would Yeah. And then when you start small, you can also show the management, a quick ROI on that. And then have your end goal in mind. So, you plan for expansion, and you plan in stages. So don't look at it. Like when you said from the plant, don't focus just on one that thing, pull back and look at the whole thing. 


Brandon Ellis  1:07:00  

You got to look at the whole thing. 


Beth Elliott  1:07:01  

Yeah. And then. Oh, yes. And can your team support it? That is the big thing. And elliTek's training facility is here to help with that.


Brandon Ellis  1:07:12  

Yeah, we're kicking our trainings, we're getting ready to kick it back up. We've got some training starting, we're gonna start small. And kind of work into that. So


Beth Elliott  1:07:20  

Right now, we're just limiting it to people from the same companies, correct?


Brandon Ellis  1:07:23  

Still same company, but as restrictions are, are beginning to be, you know, released, loosened up, then that's, that's what, we'll be opening that up a bit more. We're gonna go and get the popcorn machine going.


Beth Elliott  1:07:40  

Absolutely. Looking forward to that.


Brandon Ellis  1:07:42  

So, we'll have the popcorn and the fountain drinks and snacks again. And I think I think everybody's okay with that. It's, it's fantastic to be coming out of this pandemic.


Beth Elliott  1:07:53  

Yeah, it's a breath of fresh air.


Brandon Ellis  1:07:54  

It really is. I mean, guys, come on, you know, it's doom and gloom. Sure, we're gonna go through that. But let's embrace the fact that we're, we made it, we made it through and take positive in that, see a positive in that. And, and let's, you know, there's some adversity still. Let's, let's face it, with eyes wide open and together, and we'll overcome it as well.


Beth Elliott  1:08:18  

Yeah. And for the training, we can do just about any training, right? Especially our products.


Brandon Ellis  1:08:23  

Well, our product training is what we're going to start with. The troubleshooter training, the maintenance troubleshooting training is certainly something we're going to, we were starting to kick that off in 2020. And we're going to pull all the curriculums and stuff off the shelf, dust them off, and, and try again. So that'll be happening. Honestly, that'll probably we're shooting for probably Q1 of 2022 to really start kicking that off. You'll be hearing about that in Q4 as we begin to move in that that direction. So that's the plan, assuming nothing crazy happens, like a pandemic or anything. So, let's go ahead and wrap up. We are way, we are over an hour.


Beth Elliott  1:09:05  

Oh, dear goodness.


Brandon Ellis  1:09:06  

We've gone too long. I knew I was. This is a very important topic. So, I hope you've made it to the end. So, we want to invite you to give us a call if we can help. Again, even if you're not in our region and you're just dealing with some stuff and you want to know what our thoughts are, certainly reach out to us. You can certainly email us at You can call us at 865-409-1555. And you can check out our website That's spelled e-l-l-i-T-e-k. And then Beth, give us all the social media.


Beth Elliott  1:09:42  

Oh, we're on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, just search elliTek or elliTek hyphen, dash inc, whatever. 


Brandon Ellis  1:09:49  

That's right. 


Beth Elliott  1:09:50  

But I want to I have a big announcement.


Brandon Ellis  1:09:52  

Oh go.


Beth Elliott  1:09:53  

We've had over 1500, 1500 downloads. Thank you, guys so much.


Brandon Ellis  1:10:00  

Yeah, that's a fantastic thing.


Beth Elliott  1:10:01  

You guys are awesome. Thank you for listening and downloading. 


Brandon Ellis  1:10:04  

So, as you're to that point, as you're listening to our podcast and your favorite podcasting utility, certainly, you can find us by simply searching on elliTek. And you'll find "Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To". But we want to invite you to subscribe, to rate, to review, and according to the platform you're using to scroll down and give us a five-star rating that helps us gets us out in front of more people. And we want to certainly our mission statement as I've referenced multiple times is to empower our clients and we want to make sure that we're keeping true to that. And congratulations, Beth, because your marketing efforts absolutely made this a possibility. 


Beth Elliott  1:10:43  

It's the listeners. It really is.


Brandon Ellis  1:10:45  

Well, but if you don't tell them the story, that it's out there. They can't, they can't find us. So, thank you to you as well and your hard work you're doing. So


Beth Elliott  1:10:52  

Thank you for your insights.


Brandon Ellis  1:10:53  

Well, I can't help those. So, thank you very much. Once again, we'll be here in two weeks for the next release of "Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To". See ya, Beth. 


Beth Elliott  1:11:05  

See ya, Brandon. Thank you. 


Brandon Ellis  1:11:06  

Have a great two weeks guys. See ya.


Transcribed by

Welcome! Today's Topic is Overcoming the Labor Shortages
Anti-Air - What is it & Why does it matter?
AI - How Manufacturers Can Use It To Contend with Boomers Exiting the Workforce
Brandon's Brandology - 4 Reasons to Automate
Automation Projects to Consider by Department within Manufacturing
Office - Automation Projects to Consider
Manufacturing Floor - Automation Projects to Consider
Maintenance Department - Automation Projects to Consider
IT - Automation Projects to Consider
Other Ways Manufacturers Can Save Money
Things to Consider Before Automating - Especially First Time Automations