“The future is here; we have to invest in it.”
7 July 2021
Mason, Ohio, like much of Southwest Ohio, is in a perfect location for manufacturing and distribution. Less than a day away by Interstate to one third of Americans, the Cincinnati-Dayton I-75 corridor is ready for a big boom. Festo is one company already taking advantage of the area.
Andreas greeted me at the front door and we embarked on a tour of the factory. As we looked out over the work area, one thing immediately came to mind: the cleanliness. As if he could read my mind, he noted the cleanliness aloud. Andreas then asked me if I knew what pneumatic pistons were. At first, I had a vague concept, but later in the tour realized I was familiar with them. I’d used them with the Gerber cutter machine in the Air Force Uniform Office. A sly smile crept onto his face when he realized that I wasn’t pandering to him.
We had discussed before how important it is to have vested workers, but here I got to see it in action. Andreas pointed out that although Festo had many automated processes, the assembly could not be automated with the precision and efficiency that people provided.
We then walked down to look at the warehouse portion. Fully automated, with live overseers to quality check the computers. Andreas reaffirmed to me that automation did not mean no jobs or less jobs, but it definitely meant different jobs. That’s where his specialty came in.
Andreas and his team have been teaching people for years how to go from nothing to being able to program robots. That sounded like a great innovation for Festo, providing the tools for employee development and sourcing in-house. Except that’s not all that Festo is doing. They’ve partnered with Sinclair Community College to teach students in a two-year program. The students graduate with an Associate’s Degree, a national certification, and an international certification out of Berlin. Impressive, but not as impressive as the fact that they’re doing it on state-of-the-art equipment.
We never had that luxury in the military, just by virtue of the bureaucratic process. Andreas pointed out, neither do schools. That’s where they set graduates up for failure. The Siemens 1200 is out of date, and the factories need people proficient with the Siemens 1600 and the requisite software. Andreas lamented that in Germany (where he is from), an apprenticeship is an admirable path. I fully agree. We seemingly downplay the importance of our plumbers and electricians, until the water stops and the lights stay dark.
As we wrapped up the tour, Adreas pointed out that although Festo has locations in 175 countries, the Mason plant still produces and ships nearly 10,000 items a day. They are only looking to grow. Their current force of roughly 250 hardworking Ohioans is projected to double in the near future. And it doesn’t stop there. They’ve partnered with schools such as Butler Tech to help kids learn the intricacies of engineering and robotics, fostering and nurturing the creativity that is inherent in youth. It’s very fitting, when one remembers that Dayton, just a short drive away has more patents than any other city in the world.
“The future is here; we have to invest in it.” Andreas was not talking about himself or me. He was referring to the innovation of the future, our youth. He’s absolutely right.
Learn more about opportunities with Festo here: https://www.festo.com/us/en/e/about-festo/innovation-and-technology/research-and-development/regional-support-center-id_22447/