Manufacturing & Automation: Combining Hands-On Experience with Next-Level Technology

Tom Demitras Automation

When you think automation, you might immediately picture robots that are taking jobs from working Americans. But at Great Lakes Manufacturing (GLM), a sister company of Great Lakes Case & Cabinet, that’s not the case. In fact, our automated systems are what allow us to fill the ever-increasing number of orders that hit our desks every day. And while robotic welders and arms help us fill orders, it’s our incredible team of people who are on the floor ensuring product is not only manufactured but that it’s done so in the most efficient and effective way possible that sets us apart.

“We’ve invested a lot of money over the years in robotics and ways to supplement the humans so they are as productive as possible.” – GLCC President Jonathan Markley

One person who is crucial to this process is Tom Demitras, a GLCC engineer who works directly with the GLM team. Tom’s background in both engineering and experience working directly on the shop floor allows him to act as a liaison between GLCC and GLM. “We like to joke that everything fits on the screen,” he said. “But the computer simulation world is not the same as the product world. Yes, we can make whatever is designed on screen, but it may not be the best fit or there may be ways we can save time and money because we know our equipment and what it’s capable of.”

That’s why Demitras is fully embedded with the GLM team, working with them directly on the shop floor – which has been invaluable to both sides of the house. “I can sit down at a desk and engineer but then I’m able to run a bunch of equipment and test my own designs,” he said. “And very often, I sit back down and redesign based on what I find from getting my hands dirty in the field.”

That can save valuable time and money for GLCC, GLM and, in turn, our clients. In a recent example, tweaking a design by 50/1000ths of an inch saved the manufacturing team 15 minutes per part. That sounds small but when added up over the entirety of the year, it was the equivalent of nearly 1,000 man hours.

This collaboration – between automation, GLCC engineers, and the GLM shop floor – also means we’re able to uphold our promise of creating custom designs to meet the individual client’s needs. That couldn’t happen if we just pressed a button and the automation took care of the rest.

“We have a ton of guys here who have been doing this forever,” Demitras added. “Getting their input is huge because they just know how things work or what works better. They have so much knowledge from being hands on for so long, knowledge that can’t be replaced with any amount of education. It’s a completely different skillset so combining that with the expertise of our engineers is truly what makes the difference.”

Want to learn more about automation, manufacturing, and other trends in the industry? Check out our blog.

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