In Buffalo, New York, the factory Buffalo Manufacturing Works puts up a robotics course to representatives of local manufacturers. These people are being trained to set up automation in their factories. The program is named Shift, which aims to have small and medium-sized manufacturers to employ robotic arms to their process. Shift successfully created a stable economy and culture for the people of Buffalo, New York, but also created jobs for industrial robot manufacturers.
The prospect beneficiaries in Western New York are composed of around 1,600 companies, employing ten to 300 workers. Before 2021, it is expected that around 300 of them have already participated. Shift was formally launched before 2018, helping the factories around the area with the necessary knowledge. It includes innovation advisory services for the participants without financial costs.
How Shift is being conducted
The students are introduced to the high bay, the area housing all the automation equipment for training. It is like a museum of all sizes of robotic arms. Housed are giant 3D-printers and a series of advanced automation machines. Those machines are considered revolutionary, including their looks. The high-bay area is brightly lit, and is designed to help manufacturers increase their efficiency and success.
The three-stage process of Shift goes like this: Buffalo Manufacturing Works makes an assessment of the company. Course outlines and lessons to be implemented in the management and the process will be created based on the assessment result. After the discussions, specialists will decide what innovation should be made.
During the assessment, teams will go rounds within the company to analyze the products or services, and the processes. It can be inferred that this stage can suggest necessary changes. However, the sides of the company employees and the innovation specialists are also needed to be heard.
The applicable course outlines and lessons are necessary to inform the management and the workers of the company. This knowledge dissemination serves as the input from Garman's team. Sometimes, robotics is not suggested for companies because of different reasons. However, other technologies besides robots, will still create innovative results.
An Innovation Audit is conducted for the manufacturers after the months of preparation. A team of experts will discuss, analyze, and decide about the changes that should be implemented. Buffalo Manufacturing Works, together with Insyte Consulting, are doing the audits to understand the needs of local American manufacturers.
Sponsors and Facilitators
Mike Garman, the Shift's facilitator, is a senior engineer with 26 years of experience. He fills his students with enthusiasm, bringing a cause of brightening the flames of passion of manufacturing. Doing this course quarterly, he and the machines never fail to amaze every visitor who wants to learn.
Buffalo Manufacturing Works, Shift’s sponsor company, is composed of manufacturing experts. Their field of specialization covers research and development, internal manufacturing, and other fields related to factory improvements. They are also experts in 3D-printing , and pioneers of working with inspection technologies and measurement science. They have teams specializing in three primary technology focus areas: Advanced Automation, Additive Manufacturing and Metrology & Inspection.
New York State invested $45 million to create Buffalo Manufacturing Works in 2015. The original plan was to create an automation, metrology, and 3D-printing resource center for local businesses. Its operations were awarded to EWI, a non-profit Ohio-based company established in the early 1980s.
Development of the community
Since its launch, Shift has already facilitated 200 pro bono programs, which are all considered meaningful engagements. Those Western New York manufacturers are all personally helped by Garman to allow them to compete and grow. Also, the need to offset labor shortages will be solved thanks to those factories that embrace innovations.
After a year from Shift's official launch in 2017, the state of New York invested again in Buffalo Manufacturing Works. Not just to increase the power to train more companies, but to help them relocate and expand to a more feasible location The Empire State Development Corp. funded $33.5 million for the project. The new location, Northland Beltline, is the location of the old factory named Niagara Machine and Tool Works.
In the early days of Niagara Machine and Tool Works, it was called Niagara Stamping & Tool Co. Way back, they provided tools and equipment to the canning industry. The operations were put to halt in the late 80s, leaving an abandoned industrial zone of more than two hectares. Giving way for today’s operation, the old place was restored thanks to a couple of hundred tons of steel, around 60,000 tons of concrete, and 600 strong tradesmen. The historical integrity remained after the renovation, but the innovative design was successfully done even through a winter with a tight deadline.
After Garman showed the manufacturers what automation can do, they appreciated its potential to improve their processes. It is like teaching people to fish, or rather companies to innovate and help them long-term. These kinds of projects inspire young robot makers to contribute more, and help to build trust in the automation community.