PTA Plastics - Automation
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Automation Driving Reshoring Efforts

By: PTA Plastics February 5, 2021

After the year we all had, one of the biggest trends of 2020 was reshoring. With global supply chains disrupted and even stopped in some cases, the previous benefits that enticed manufacturers to move projects overseas were no longer there. The early effects of the global pandemic brought a quick shift in the reshoring efforts for companies across the country, ensuring that essential medical supplies were readily available and a top priority.

While the rapid increase in the need for essential medical supplies brought reshoring into the news more prominently this past year, reshoring has been a growing trend over the last decade thanks to automation, which has opened several opportunities for manufacturers.

THE RESHORING TREND - A DECADE IN THE MAKING

In 2010, Harry Moser founded the Reshoring Initiative - a non-profit dedicated to bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., by offering the tools to allow manufactures to realize that local production can help to decrease total costs.

Previously, PTA Plastics took a deep dive into the driving forces behind companies' decisions to look to reshore, which included limiting global supply chain issues to stay competitive for consumers looking for products "Made in the USA". Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, research from Bank of America suggests that companies were already shifting to reshoring initiatives, and the global supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 just helped accelerate this.

For many companies, one of the initial decisions to manufacture off-shore was driven by cost, as overseas labor was much lower, resulting in a lower cost of goods for production. However, over the past decade or so, automation has been a determining factor permitting companies to come back home.

Reshoring is not as simple as moving a project from one place to another. During a virtual roundtable, industry professionals from PTA Plastics and the Plastics Industry Association (PIA) discussed some of the challenges involved with reshoring.

The rise of automation over the last decade has not only allowed reshoring to be a reality but has significantly impacted how industries are moving forward. PTA Plastics understands the impact automation has on process repeatability, quality, and cost and is committed to the initiative.

INNOVATION, AUTOMATION - MAKING RESHORING POSSIBLE AT PTA PLASTICS

To compete with low-cost labor in offshore markets, U.S. companies were forced to find innovative ways to close the cost gap without paying lower wages. Over the past 12+ years, PTA Plastics saw the potential in automation and has invested heavily in alternative solutions to automate our processes.

Beginning in 2008, PTA placed a stronger focus on utilizing the full capabilities of Yushin robots as End of Arm Tooling (EOAT). Since that time, PTA has automated processes such as in-mold decorating, insert placement, part pick and place into secondary equipment and multi-clip applications – where a part is positioned up to 4 times to clip multi-gated parts.

The impact of these investments and increased automation processes extends to the end customer, as labor savings results in more cost-effective solutions. The ability to free the time of a half operator to three or more operators from jobs not only saves money but allows the operator(s) to focus their time and attention elsewhere.

After discovering the potential of these savings in jobs with simple, repetitive tasks, PTA Plastics has continued to find ways to optimize processes - moving forward into the next industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) through automation.

For example, an application is currently being developed for one of our cobots to automate laser scanning of parts. This automation would allow for an in-process inspection to occur and generate a First Article Inspection Report (FAIR) simultaneously. The automation of these complex tasks will become more common soon as businesses continue to thrive and grow in ever-changing environments.

HOW AUTOMATION IS DRIVING THE FUTURE AT PTA PLASTICS

As a forward-thinking company, PTA Plastics always has eyes on what is next. Currently, the next is Industry 4.0. This refers to a new phase in the industrial revolution that focuses heavily on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Digital Twins are becoming the norm.

PTA Plastics has fully embraced this concept by putting together a team (since 2019) called, “PTA 2030” to plan for and invest in the technology, skills, and experts needed to excel in this next revolution. Engaged with implementing plans and strategy for Industry 4.0, the 2030 Team also is looking beyond, already outlining plans to the market into Industry 5.0.

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