Zoller Automation Days highlights solutions

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At Automation Days, Zoller Inc. president Alexander Zoller discussed how a labor shortage dictates the need for automation. (Courtesy: Zoller Inc.)

Zoller Inc. recently welcomed manufacturing professionals from a range of industries to its North American headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Automation Days.

Customers and industry leaders highlighted the unique solutions Zoller offers to automate cutting tool management and establish more resilient, reliable processes in the face of a labor shortage that is expected to leave 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030.

“We need to automate because there is a labor shortage in the market,” said Zoller Inc. president Alexander Zoller. “The name of the game is how can I produce more parts in a short amount of time for less cost and higher quality?”

That message was echoed by Automation Days speakers, including Peter Cockburn, principal engineer – manufacturing innovation at Bell, an industry-leading producer of commercial and military vertical lift aircraft headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Bell integrates Zoller automation technology into its factories to standardize and optimize toolroom processes.

“The biggest challenge that we have as a manufacturing company is talent — obtaining talent, training talent, and retaining talent,” Cockburn said. “Automation helps with that so that we can run 24/7 as needed and utilize our skilled workforce in better locations.”

One goal of Automation Days (which was centered around the theme of Automate. Success.) was to display the range of Zoller’s automation solutions, from comprehensive tool-management software to the new »roboBox« system that automatically pulls, assembles, heat-shrinks, and measures tools to a guaranteed accuracy within 10 microns. Also spotlighted was the »roboSet 2« that automates tool measuring and inspection by cleaning, inspecting, laser marking, and loading tools autonomously.

In addition to demos and presentations, Automation Days included a panel discussion on initiatives to draw young people into manufacturing. Putting innovative technology into students’ hands is one way to do that, said guest speaker Christopher Townsend, advisor for Eagle Manufacturing, a student-run business out of Brown County High School in Nashville, Indiana, that incorporates Zoller hardware and software into its curriculum.

“We are trying to get students exposed to as much industry-standard technology as we possibly can and give them the opportunity to dive into that, learn more about it and understand how that’s utilized in the industry and how that can make a business more profitable,” Townsend said.

Also during Automation Days, Zoller announced the launch of its Toolroom of the Year competition, which seeks to find the most connected, high-tech toolroom in North America. The winner will be announced at IMTS 2024 and will win a trip to Zoller’s Smart Factory in Pleidelsheim, Germany. Additional details, including judging criteria and submission guidelines, will be released soon.

With Automation Days concluded, Zoller is now preparing for a road show of its automation solutions. Next year, Zoller will offer demos of the »roboBox« at partner sites and Zoller locations across the U.S. and Canada to provide customers a first-hand look at the groundbreaking technology.

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