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Flexible Workforce Addresses Global Manufacturing Disruption

A pandemic is just one type of disruption that can halt production. Manufacturers are getting creative, and the lessons learned now will influence how companies meet changing global conditions and demands.

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Just because we’ve never done it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

That’s how we’ve approached our response to the global pandemic. It’s influenced the way we operate and the way we support our customers. Together, our employees and our partners have pivoted and adapted manufacturing to meet global changes and demands beyond what we could have imagined just months ago.

But the pandemic is just one example of disruption that can slow or halt production. Manufacturers are all too familiar with others – including supply chain issues, geopolitical and geographical challenges, material scarcities and workforce shortages have always kept our customers up at night.

What we’ve accomplished together, in the face of uncertainty, proves to me that we can do whatever it takes to help our customers deliver as promised.

Flexible Manufacturing Creates a First

Here’s just one example of how we have adapted. Although manufacturing our own cabinets is a long-standing part of our business, we’ve never manufactured enclosures, of their own design, for a customer. JMP, playing a key role in the ongoing fight against COVID-19 by producing 10,000 ventilators for Health Canada, needed help and reached out to us. Within six hours of the request, we were ready to produce the first prototype.

A lot went into fulfilling their request:

  • We have the materials and the equipment. Our facility in Canada consumed over 22,000 sheets of carbon steel last year manufacturing medium voltage drives and starters. With some modifications and additional resources, our state-of-the-art sheet metal cell allowed us to integrate ventilator parts into our production.
  • We have the know-how. Our engineers are familiar with custom fabrication, manufacturing capabilities and adapting for production. Our manufacturing team knows their equipment and processes and how to get the most out of them.
  • We have the will. Our people want to do whatever they can to battle COVID-19 and that can take many forms. In this case, it’s producing an unprecedented number of enclosures to help save lives.

It has been over a decade since we worked with stainless steel; processes and equipment have changed dramatically. We learned new skills and made equipment modifications to make a product that met our customer’s quality requirements.

Close and constant collaboration kept the project on track to meet the deadline. Team members rearranged priorities and managed many changes. I am proud of what the team did in our ‘new normal’ and how they did it.

Flexible Workforce

Flexible manufacturing is only possible with a flexible workforce.

The employees who engaged in this opportunity represent the culture of our organization: people who have a keen desire to serve, who look for creative ways to help customers achieve their goals.

The speed of response can only come from a flexible organizational structure and mindset. One that prioritizes and solves complex business problems that are new to our customers and new to us.

That’s the truth of our organization. And it’s meaningful because customers need us to respond throughout disruption. For the pandemic, we created a type of “triage” room for clearer visibility into unique challenges and to prioritize special requests. From personal protective equipment to test kits to machines that will mass produce vaccines, our employees stepped up and found exceptional ways to deliver exceptional results.

It’s been exhausting and exhilarating, enlightening and energizing. Although the work is different and it’s immense, it’s not overwhelming because we are preparing new processes, adapting and communicating.

We serve with a sense of purpose. Ours is a culture that supports the innovators, the makers and the doers. And that has never been clearer than right now.

To see other ways that Rockwell Automation is supporting our customers through these challenging times, visit our COVID-19 response page.


Dave Sharpe
Dave Sharpe
Global Industry Director, Rockwell Automation
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