Robots beckon: skilled automation staff needed

By creating innovation and differentiation, developed countries have a chance, says CEO

There is an opportunity for New Zealand’s automated manufacturing industry to compete with lower-cost countries, says Keith Nosbusch, chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation, a US-based provider of automated systems. The future for countries like New Zealand is in manufacturing high-quality, complex products.

“By creating innovation and differentiation, developed countries have a chance,” he said at a recent American Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Auckland.

Responsiveness to the local market and staff expertise are key factors for keeping manufacturing in the country, he says. By utilising the expertise and competence of the staff, and having a global strategy, local companies can be world class, he says.

Also of importance is selecting an automation supplier that uses open standards and can link the plant floor to the enterprise system, says Nosbusch.

To be able to compete, local companies need to focus on productivity and integration through the whole supply chain. They need to look at the total cost of manufacturing, he said before pointing out again: “And a highly competent workforce [will make your] company competitive in the long run.

“There will be fewer people doing it [working in automation] but automation will contribute to the economy,” Nosbusch says.

New Zealand is an early adopter of high-end, complex automation solutions, according to David Vickery, Rockwell’s regional director for New Zealand.

“Often [automation systems] are tested in the US and trialled in New Zealand,” he says. “New Zealand is very open to new technology. We are not lagging behind the rest of the world.” However, the skills shortage is a problem.

“We are struggling to find engineers, not just Rockwell but also our partners,” says Vickery. The company is recruiting people straight out of university in an attempt to keep up with the demand.

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