By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association
Jobs in Michigan are as hard to come by as anywhere in the U.S., but people with engineering degrees and those with an aptitude for high tech are finding that where robots go jobs follow. CBS picked up on this recently in a story about Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan, where people are finding work thanks to new opportunities driven by automation.
Dow has embraced robotics and automation in the making of new solar panel roof shingles, and the company now employs people who lost their jobs when the automotive sector downsized. That is part of the story depicted in a May 11, 2011, CBS report, “Dow Chemical’s solar-powered jobs plan.”
What you won’t hear is that RIA member, JR Automation (based in Holland, Michigan), installed some of the robot work cells seen in the news footage.
“Trends in green and renewable energy have spurred new applications for robots because large volumes of products like solar panels need to be produced with automation to be cost effective,” said Scot Lindemann, Vice President, JR Automation. “Robots can handle delicate, expensive parts like solar arrays with speed and precision in a way that just can’t be done cost-effectively by hand.”
The appeal of robotics is well known within academia. It is the inspiration for the FIRST Robotics Competition with a reach of more than 50,000 K-9 students. Across the country, colleges and universities with robotics programs are churning out students with great job prospects as witnessed by local RIA members.
JR Automation has hired three graduates from Lake Superior State University just this year and now employs 14 LSSU graduates. Applied Manufacturing Technologies in Orion, Michigan is another RIA member with 16 LSSU graduates working in robotics.
“There were more than 60 job offers for the 15 engineering and engineering technology students graduating with the robotics option this year,” reports Jim Devaprasad, Professor, College of Engineering, Technology and Economic Development at Lake Superior State University. Located in Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this RIA Educator member is producing students with job prospects in a state that has recently added more manufacturing jobs than any other according to the CBS report.
“An engineering degree with a robotics option from LSSU makes you particularly well prepared for the automated manufacturing industry,” said Devaprasad. He explained that the robotics option focuses on systems integration, “which allows students to hit the ground running because they already are trained in real-world technologies.”
Forty institutions belong to Robotic Industries Association in a special membership category for educators. RIA corporate members participate in sponsorships that bind their companies with institutions that help train or re-train people for jobs in robotics.
Founded in 1974, RIA represents leading robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, educators, research groups, and consulting firms. The association sponsors the biennial Automate Show and Conference plus many regional events, and is secretariat of the ANSI/RIA R15.06 Robot Safety Standard. RIA also serves as North America’s representative to the International Federation of Robotics and provides detailed quarterly North American robot statistics. Full information on RIA activities is on Robotics Online (www.robotics.org), the world’s leading robotics resource on the Worldwide Web.