Yushin shows off robots to spur interest in advanced manufacturing
It’s likely that the toothbrush you used this morning was touched by a Yushin America robot before you bought it,” said sales manager Chris Parrillo, describing how the company’s robots help automate the production of plastics in manufacturing companies across North America.
Parrillo spent Friday giving tours to groups of students as part of Manufacturing Week in Rhode Island. In all, 14 groups visited the gleaming plant where employees design, build, and test robots used in the medical, automotive, and home goods industries.
According to Mary Brennan, marketing communication specialist, the goal of the tours was to increase awareness about careers in advanced manufacturing, and let people see for themselves that manufacturing is a path to a stable career with good wages and safe working conditions.
While the Yushin plant was spotless and well organized, research indicates Americans hold a mental picture of manufacturing from an earlier time. According to a study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute in 2015, 53 percent of Americans had unfavorable perceptions of the industry, often viewing it as a low-wage, low-skill industry where laborers work in dangerous and dirty conditions.
Sixty-three percent worried about job security and stability, believing that manufacturing jobs are the first to be moved to other countries, and only one in three parents would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing. It is these misconceptions that Yushin America hopes to counter by opening its plant to tours.
Advanced manufacturing is not the world of Henry Ford and the assembly line, where each person turns one crank or pulls one lever. Essentially, a team in Cranston is given a robot body - piece of equipment that can be the size of a pickup or box truck that is designed and manufactured in Yushin’s headquarters in Japan - and they work with clients to design and build specialized hands (known as end effectors) that can sort, pick up, and place items during the manufacturing process.
The goal of automation is to speed up assembly while reducing errors. Companies who make products ranging from toothbrushes to medical equipment purchase and use these systems in their factories. According to Michael Greenhalgh, operations director, employees at Yushin are building robots that automate repetitive tasks, speeding up product assembly while reducing errors, a process that reduces costs and allows companies to bring production, and jobs, back to the U.S.
Greenhalgh said the company’s entry-level technicians typically join the company with some experience in computer-aided design or engineering, education that can be acquired by earning associate degree in electrical or mechanical engineering. While on the job, employees develop additional skills in mechanical and electrical engineering and software, making them well rounded and able to fill multiple roles on the team.
To John Gomes, director of training and development for the Comprehensive Community Action Program’s Learn to Earn program - a work readiness program created by the National Retail Federation and funded by grant from the Governor’s Workforce Board - the tour was a chance to introduce his students to industries they might not otherwise consider.
He wants them to know there are jobs for them in manufacturing as well as the retail sector, because companies like Yushin America need employees who can “create a manual on how to use their products and who provide training and customer service” to companies that use their robots. He wants his students to see where the jobs are, and to inspire them to learn new skills so they are competitive candidates for careers in many sectors.
From the looks on the students’ faces as they watched the robots lifting and placing parts as part of the testing process, the tours are working as intended.
Yushin America to Open Doors for Tours