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January 2015

Fluctuating Gas Prices and the American Economy

There has been much fervor in the news lately over the steep decline in gas prices and the ripple effect that this will have for American industry and economy.

According to Jonathon Lansner at the Orange County Register, $1 of every $40 spent in California last year was spent on gas. Therefore, a change in the cost of oil represents a significant proportional change in how we spend our money on an individual basis.

Due to the advent of new methods of fossil fuel mining, America now gets its oil primarily from domestic sources. Thus, until domestic resources begin to drop off, gas prices will remain low. Many, including President Obama, have encouraged Americans to respond to this temporary price drop in an appropriate and responsible way: “Take ht money you’re saving, pay off the credit card or go get a new appliance, or buy a fuel-efficient car — so that when prices go back up, you’re still well-positioned” (President Obama as quoted in Seattle PI).

For manufacturers, particularly car manufacturers, the drop in oil prices necessitates adjustments in company habits and in product output. For all types of companies, the drop in prices will mean a temporary decrease in the cost of transporting materials. However, for companies that work in products directly related to gasoline (like cars), the picture becomes a bit more complicated. While in the recent past, emphasis in the automotive industry has been placed on fuel efficiency, trends in the coming years may instead concern appearance, drivability, and other less environmentally friendly features.

As Steve Goldstein points out in Market Watch, we will also need to observe how the drop in oil prices will carry over into other markets aside from transportation and food. As other products may become cheaper, and as the American average salary stretches further with less money allocated to gas, consumption may continue to go up, a pattern already suggested by this year’s Christmas spending increase.

As gas prices drop, so do taxes on gasoline, which suggests that there will be less money in coming years for public works, particularly for transportation projects. With a rapidly declining transportation infrastructure in California and all over the US, a renewed interest in travel by car my indicate a long-term setback for these kinds of important projects.

We may hope that, as President Obama suggests, Americans will take this opportunity to plan ahead and invest in long-term transportation solutions that are more environmentally friendly.

Vangelis Thomaidis

December 2014

Planning for your New Year Automation Strategy

While you get ready for the end of the year, you’ll likely start to consider ways to improve your operations in the coming year. As you evaluate your budget, consider looking at automation as a way to save you money in the fiscal year ahead.


Automating for the First Time


If you’ve never automated before, you may be unsure of where to start. Ask yourself these questions to begin evaluating your options:

  1. How many distinct processes do I oversee in my facility? Would my efficiency or quality control be immediately improved by automating any of these isolated processes?
  2. Could I automate all or the majority of my processes into one automated system? How quickly will I get a return on investment if I consider full automation?
  3. Am I concerned about any processes that are very difficult for employees, are dangerous, or require a significant investment of time for a small output of product?

It may be difficult, from the outset, to see all of the ways that you could automate or to realize the extent to which you could improve your efficiency. By consulting with us for an evaluation, we can help you realize your best options for your budget, and the best ways to plan for future increases in your automation.


Increasing on your Automation


If you already have automated part of your systems, now may be a good time to consider new ways to automate to save your company time and money in the coming years. Whether or not you worked with us on your first machine design, we can help you evaluate how to best accommodate your expected growth potential with automation. We can design a system that uses your existing machinery, or a completely new system automated to the degree you see fit.


Upgrades and Retrofits


If you haven’t upgraded your machines in a while, now might be the time to do so. We can help you evaluate ways to improve your machine functionality by upgrading it or replacing old portions. This can be a great way to adapt your existing machines to meet contemporary demands without having to completely overhaul your system.

Call us at 760-741-7288 to get the proposal process started.

December 2014

Automation for Holiday Manufacturing Increases

The holidays can bring increased sales and productivity for many manufacturers, but frequently this increased demand can actually exceed the capacity of the manufacturer’s facilities.

During these times, manufacturers may hire seasonal workers for support, but for many, the end of the year is a good time to consider more sustainable practices for managing increased demand in the future.

Amazon, always on the forefront of technological change, currently uses over 15,000 Kiva robots for support in their 109 shipping centers. Amazon has been increasing their reliance on Kiva robots since they purchased Kiva Systems in March 2012.

The Kiva robots, each capable of holding up to 750 lbs, are used to collect merchandise from the storage areas of the shipping centers to bring to employees in charge of packaging and shipping. This is a pretty classic situation for automation: the company identified a task that would be greatly simplified and made more efficient by use of robots. According to RoboHub, the conversion rate of human to robot labor in this regard has been about one hour to every minute.

Lifting large, heavy loads can also be very dangerous, and so it especially makes sense to assign a job like this to robots instead of humans. However, in addition to exemplifying good automation practices, Amazon has also set a good example in their hiring. According to RoboHub, this year Amazon hired over 80,000 seasonal workers to support holiday shipping.