Q: Tell me about your role at CIRAS and they type clients you work with? A: I lead our automation team of four, which includes myself, Eric Higgins, Kirk Haaland, and Ty Hill. We generally work with manufacturers, helping them understand what’s possible with automation and helping them prioritize and justify specific automation opportunities. We … Continue reading Q & A With CIRAS Automation Leader, Andrew Friend
Attending a tradeshow can pay big dividends for even small companies. The right show can provide networking opportunities, give insights on competitors, and update you on developments in your industry. But tradeshows can be overwhelming, especially if you decide to attend a large-scale event. To maximize the experience, consider these suggestions from CIRAS staff members: … Continue reading Getting the Most from Tradeshows
It’s no secret that Iowa businesses are struggling under the weight of current workforce constraints. So how can your company mitigate the impact? Over the long run, an organization-wide workforce strategy that collaboratively optimizes attraction, retention, productivity, and automation can help. This plan should be developed within the context of your regular strategic-planning cycle. Strategy … Continue reading Developing Your Own Workforce Strategy
Iowa manufacturers are turning to CIRAS with questions on how to maintain productivity and profitability when workforce is in short supply. Depending on the application, the answer can be automation or using robotics instead of humans to perform tasks like machine-tending. “Machinists are high-skilled employees, but some of the tasks they perform do not require … Continue reading Using Automation to Bridge Labor Gap
CIRAS and industry partners continue to invest in new technologies for Iowa manufacturers. Ramco Innovations recently donated a selective compliance articulated robot arm (SCARA) to CIRAS. The company is a technology partner in the Digital Manufacturing Lab created in 2019 with substantial donations from Alliant Energy and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The lab is … Continue reading Lab Helps Manufacturers Explore Industry 4.0 Technologies
A global supplier of vending equipment and services turned to CIRAS last year for advice on maintaining quality customer support during the pandemic. CIRAS suggested implementing an augmented reality (AR) tool provided by TeamViewer. The solution proved so effective the company plans to use it after pandemic concerns subside. “One of our biggest concerns early … Continue reading Enhance Customer Value with Augmented Reality
A Story City food packaging company expects to save more than three-and-a-half weeks of labor over the next year after CIRAS helped the business automate weekly and monthly reports for managers. Dennis Sankot, production manager for American Packaging Corporation, used to spend about 16 hours a month transferring data from the company’s ERP (enterprise resource … Continue reading Automated Data Makes for Rapid Reports and More Problem Solving
This fall will mark the second anniversary of the CIRAS Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy, and we’re still growing.
We opened the lab in September 2019 as to experiment with ways to de-risk technology adoption for Iowa manufacturers. Since then, we have served the Industry 4.0 needs of many businesses in Iowa via in-person events, counseling sessions and projects.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 kept most people out of the lab last year. But we haven’t been dormant. Instead, CIRAS used the opportunity to expand our technology partnerships, upgrade our technology, and evolve our services from in-person to virtual engagements.
Work by CIRAS to increase the adoption of cutting-edge edge technology in Iowa manufacturing will play a key role supporting the state’s new plan for keeping Iowa industry competitive.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the new Manufacturing 4.0 Initiative on Thursday, saying it was intended to outline “new strategies to support (manufacturers’) efforts and ensure Iowa’s future prosperity is widespread, reaching all people in all parts of Iowa.”
The initiative, which is led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, creates strategies and actions focused on ensuring Iowa is a global leader in the next generation of manufacturing.
There are many reasons Iowa manufacturers come to Ramco Innovations looking for automation.
“Certainly, a lot of it is that it’s hard to fill a lot of positions these days,” said Joe Stoltz, vice president of technology for the West Des Moines company. “And once you find people, it’s hard to keep them doing a repetitive job.”
So how do you get more work done without adding staff? The correct technological solution for any particular company depends on exactly what you need machines to do. But Iowa manufacturers can’t answer those questions until they understand their options.
It all started with the search for a better way to check electrical connections on air conditioners.
Wes Draughn, manager of manufacturing and engineering for the cooling business unit at Lennox Manufacturing in Marshalltown, had a design for a new process to help Lennox team members be more efficient in checking the quality of their work. “We needed a way to interact with the unit at different times throughout the assembly process, and the plugs that we needed weren’t available off the shelf,” he said.
An intern had designed a new guide that could be used to help assemblers test connections at multiple locations on the line. The new “plug” would provide a more ergonomic grip for employees, meeting safety and other agency requirements. But there seemed to be no way to get it built.
Trent Walters knew his purpose.
“I’m learning the possibilities,” said Waters, an engineer with Dee Zee truck accessories in Des Moines. “You come here and look at all this, and then you start thinking, ‘We can do that…’ ”
Waters is one of dozens of Iowa manufacturers who have visited Iowa State University’s Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy since it opened in September at the ISU Research Park.
As far as Hari Banda is concerned, it all comes down to getting a good education and having a better reputation.
Banda is the owner of Quadyster, a Bettendorf information technology company that struggled for years to find the right approach to doing business with the government. Contracts seemed always out of reach. Then, two things happened: the company found CIRAS, and it found a new source for electronic equipment.
Government buyers noticed.
Dozens of Iowa manufacturers got their first glimpse of a path to new technologies on September 26, as CIRAS formally opened its new Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy.
Representatives from CIRAS, Alliant Energy, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) were joined by Iowa State University and Ames leaders for opening remarks and a tour.
Doors will formally open next month on a new facility that CIRAS hopes will help take the risk out of new technologies for Iowa manufacturers.
An eastern Iowa manufacturing company landed an important job providing parts for a railcar-cleaning robot after CIRAS helped the company prove its design under a tight deadline.
Multiple times each day, the skilled workers at Miracle Tools America in Davenport must stop what they’re doing and clean. Making drill bits can be a dirty business, and the tiny water channels that keep tools from overheating have a tendency to clog.
Hence, the company decided to begin experimenting with a new type of employee—one that wouldn’t mind the monotony.
One made out of metal.
Abhay Grover has joined CIRAS as a project manager focused on new technologies.
Dozens of times each day, the skilled workers at Miracle Tools America in Davenport must stop what they’re doing and clean. Making drill bits can be a dirty business, and the tiny water channels that are used to keep tools cool have a tendency to get clogged.
Hence, the company decided to begin experimenting with a new type of employee – one that wouldn’t mind the monotony.
One who is made of metal.
Legacy Manufacturing in Marion has added seven new employees (with at least three more coming soon) after a CIRAS-assisted automation program helped the company reshore production of one of its most popular products.
About 18 months ago, CIRAS announced its new “Future of Manufacturing” series to help manufacturers become ready for what is “next” in manufacturing. While this was a significant leap, it was based on a simple premise: changes in technology, workforce, and business models were moving so fast that we needed to help get Iowa manufacturers out in front.
Every day we see something “new” in manufacturing. 3D Printed food, connected everything, cobots, and the list goes on. In fact, we’ve heard of these possibilities for decades. But something about these things seems a bit more real now than in the past. Like something important is happening