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November Roundup: Conveyor Safety, Manufacturing and Automation

A collection of material handling, supply chain and automation articles

General Inquiry

Morning coffee with Cisco-Eagle photo
We’ve curated a number of the most insightful tips, articles, opinions and videos we’ve been seeing this month.

American workers need “lots of robots”

Noah Smith’s piece on automation and its effects on employment is absolutely loaded with information on how automation—particularly robots—has once created something of a “robot scare” to the point that policies like automation taxes were once proposed in the late 2010s in the wake of the financial crisis and its depressive effects on manufacturing employment.

Robot palletizing line in a warehouse.

Smith lays out the rationale for automation from a workers’ standpoint: “…if we really want to change our economy in all the ways we’ve been hoping — reshoring manufacturing from China, securing supply chains, preventing inflationary bottlenecks, and so on — we’re going to need quite a lot of automation.”

Key takeaways

  • Smith discusses the fallacy that robots will make human workers obsolete. There has been no measurable unemployment due to automation, and productivity hasn’t risen overall as companies automate.
  • Robots and automation don’t reduce worker compensation, at least over the last decade. In fact, truck drivers, who feared being crowded out by robots, saw the opposite.
  • Reshoring American manufacturing from China depends on automation and robotics. “In order to make reshoring happen, though, we will need automation, automation, and more automation,” says Smith.

Read more: American Workers Need Lots and Lots of Robots

CEMA offers conveyor safety labels, posters and more resources

CEMA conveyor safety labels
CEMA—the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association—has provided safety labels and other important guidance for conveyor operators for decades. You can download a PDF of these labels from the association’s website, or buy the labels you need right there.

Read more: Cisco-Eagle’s guide to conveyor safety

American manufacturers are “pumped” about supply chain reshoring

Bloomberg reports on the trend of U.S. companies “reshoring” and “near shoring” their supply chains, a trend that has been long-term but has picked up steam in the years since the Covid-19 pandemic. Bloomberg says that American firms expect to re-shore over 350,000 jobs during 2o22, a whopping 25% increase over 2o21. Furthermore, the trend is accelerating and could result in 40% of manufacturing that is currently overseas returning to the United States by 2030.

Bloomberg: “The pandemic turned much of the chin-scratching into construction spending for several reasons: global supply-chain snarls, rising e-commerce, geopolitical pressures, export restrictions, and a surge in robotics and automation.”

Hytrol: How to Get the Most from Your Sorter Investment

Sortation conveyor system.
Sortation conveyors are critical for distribution operations that want to move, accurately sort and ship products at high speeds. Hytrol’s Billy Pendergrass takes a dive into what you need to know before you invest in a sorter to maximize your return.

Key takeaways

  • Get your product profiles right: Have a list of what you’ll be conveying. Is it boxes? Envelopes? Large, bulky items? Some mixture? The profile is important, as are the weights, dimensions and surface factors.
  • What are the sort rates? Sortation rates—the speed at which items are sorted to their next destination—are calculated by using the product size and weight, RPM (rate per minute) and the gaps between items on the belt. The basic question boils down to this: what are you sorting and how fast does it need to travel?
  • Sorter size and footprint: The size of the sortation unit itself is a factor. Do you have the space to accommodate it? This often goes back to load size and characteristics, which dictate both transportation and sortation conveyors.
  • Budgetary factors: Sorters can be budgeted for any number of scenarios. Their price tends to rely on the factors above: what are you sorting, how often and how quickly?
  • Sorter types: Another choice that can affect ROI that is often guided by load characteristics, speed and sort rates. Plenty of options, ranging from sliding shoe sorters to narrow belt sorter systems to belted pivot wheels, can be utilized in your conveyor system.

Pendergrass lays it all out on the Hytrol blog. Worth your time as you evaluate a sortation solution.

Video: American manufacturing is poised for massive growth

Geopolitical expert Peter Zeihan makes the case that Detroit in particular, and the United States in general, will continue to see manufacturing sector growth as the world’s supply chains continue to evolve and shorten. He cites security, access to energy and raw material inputs and demographics as factors in American manufacturing’s favor. Detroit and Houston are two of the American regions positioned to take advantage of these trends.

“The United States has been in the midst of its greatest industrialization period since at least World War 2.”


Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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