Santa Ana, California
Industry: Industrial & Equipment
Products: Robotic automation and conveyor systems
President Phillip Meilbeck sees automation as the great equalizer for California manufacturers.
Meilbeck joined forces with TransAutomation founder and CEO John Thompson in 2014 to align their engineering talents with their expertise in material-handling automation.
"We both had a professional background in material-handling systems from working for other companies in the past," says Meilbeck. "Together, the capability to manufacture conveyors and integrate robotic systems created a powerful resource for a variety of customers. Now, we are essentially here to help California manufacturers remain more competitive and stay within the state by automating their processes."
Meilbeck is adamant about the integration of robots for efficiency, but says the misconception that robots will eliminate a huge number of jobs is just not a valid argument. "The robots we integrate have the purpose of doing heavy, boring, and repetitive tasks," he explains. "These are the tasks that are physically exhausting and can cause injury or be dangerous for a worker to do on a consistent basis. By integrating one of our robotic systems, that task can be completed safer and faster. This allows the company to be more efficient, increasing their competitiveness within the state and prevent them from moving or taking their manufacturing overseas."
TransAutomation Technologies is made up of engineers, metal fabricators, and system consultants, who Meilbeck says share in the company's mission to analyze a customer's needs and build a system that will help improve their business. "Our conveyor and robotic systems allow for a manufacturer to grow, without the need to add more employees," says Meilbeck. "For example, we recently helped a company in Monterey Park, California, reduce a significant portion of their labor costs with robotics. Utilizing our systems, they were also able remain highly productive in California and to retain their employees by becoming more cost effective and remain competitive."
Meilbeck points out that it's important for manufacturers to realize that automating the right tasks can be beneficial. "Companies need to realize the consequences of exposing employees to tasks that can cause injuries. Back-breaking jobs that create exposure to risk can be replaced by robotic automation and companies should assign a value to those types of tasks that could be automated."
As California employers begin looking at $15-per-hour minimum wage and a shrinking workforce, more people are looking to automation, says Meilbeck, but there's still a fear of robots in the work environment. "The facts are that there are far too many things that humans can do that robots cannot," he notes. "There are just too many variables that humans can respond to better than robots can, due to rapid human hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. Robotic automation are for those tasks that must be done exactly, in the same way, every time and as a result, companies can get 100 percent of that work out of a robotic system."
Challenges: Market awareness. "Our biggest challenge is getting the word out," says Meilbeck. "There's a growing trend of acceptance of robotic automation out of sheer demand, but getting that point across is still something of a challenge."
Opportunities: "There's a shrinking workforce and a rising cost of labor that is getting more companies to look at the robotic automation we provide," says Meilbeck. "Advances with end-of-arm tooling is allowing us to add more dexterity to robotic systems. Manufacturers of high-volume products can benefit from advancements in robots, especially in the food, consumer products, and construction material industries."
Needs: More employees. "We are definitely in need of skilled mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as assembly people," says Meilbeck.
An informed market is another need. "It's also important for us to provide an accurate story of how robotics can and cannot help, to give companies a good understanding on how robotics work and give them more of the truth, rather than being influenced by a lot of bad hype," he says.