I used to HATE automation. Even all the way back to when I was a simple Press Operator, I hate machines on auto cycle. I hated my automatic Freightliner Cascadia when I worked for Swift Transportation. I hate my automatic, CVT-powered Ford C-Max.
The reason is straightforward: I hate not being in control, especially when it comes down to running machines, such as our 3-D printer or our CNC router.
However, I believe in the Fordism ideology of making a workspace accessible to ALL workers, not just non-disabled workers or workers without cognitive/mental issues. Anyone can sit in front of a machine, along with their AI-powered tablet companions showing them how each part needs to look and directly communicating any defects to the "mentor" or "leader" (direct supervisor or shift supervisor, respectively), and run that machine.
When it comes to safety, I believe many issues can be avoided by adding simple guards to protect appendages, such as moving parts, pinch points, and cutting tools.
However-and THIS is where a LOT of folks take issue with me-there is a level of discrimination that comes with this sort of outlook. I don't even look at it as discrimination...more like...discretion in employee training and placement.
Now, don't get me wrong: If any one of our "friends" (what we call everyone who walks in through our doors because even employees are clients) can show aptitude and confidence in running any of our manufacturing stations, we will place them and train them; simple as that. However...and this is where that aforementioned discretion comes in...if we feel like our "friend" ISN'T up to the task for operating presses, 3-D Printers, CNC Routers, or any of our other equipment, we can fall back on some of our proprietary algorithms to make sure that not only are we going to be accommodating in finding that "friend" a position that WE know they'll be safe in, but a position that they will enjoy and excel at!
Automation might save our asses when it comes to helping make things more accessible for everyone in another case, as well: scope of work. If we have a press or machine running parts for... let's say our tablets and cases that we're currently prototyping...that press or machine is going to be running and doing its own thing. All the "friend" has to do, as instructed by not only their "mentor" but by the device they're given at the start of their employment, is pick parts, clean parts, organize, and box parts to be brought to another part of the assembly process.
I think it's not the machine's fault when it comes to seeing more disabled folks working in manufacturing. No. I think it ultimately comes down to good training methods and safe work practices. It's OUR fault, as shop owners. We fucked up in not including this process in the start-up of our companies.
But that's what makes Stim Factory so great, in my opinion. We're not just manufacturing Assistive Tech Devices-you know...grabbers, walkers, canes, communication devices, protective cases and skins, and whatnot. We're learning to fly on our own. We're not some cookie-cutter business, extruded from competition and copying from the same companies we'd be in competition with.
THAT'S what we mean when we say: "No BS, only solutions".
Automation, in this particular context, is a good thing. We believe that with automation, along with specific and proprietary ATDs (Assistive Technology Devices and software), the Turner Method, and Boyt Variation of the Prospect Curve, we can put ANYONE to work, regardless of disability; ensuring that everyone is safe, comfortable with the scope of work, earning a living wage in a position they feel most valued, and most importantly: having fun!