Robots Pick Up More Work at Busy Factories

June 2, 2022

“Robots are turning up on more factory floors and assembly lines as companies struggle to hire enough workers to fill rising orders,” writes The Wall Street Journal (June 2, 2022). Orders for workplace robots in the U.S. climbed 22% last year to $1.6 billion.

Rising wages and worker shortages, compounded by increases in Covid-19-related absenteeism, are changing some manufacturers’ attitudes about robotics. “Before, you could throw people at a problem instead of finding a more elegant solution,” said the CEO of Delphon Industries. Delphon lost 40% of its production days during January when the coronavirus spread through its workforce. The disruption accelerated the company’s purchase of 3 additional robots earlier this year.

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Peleton’s Downhill Ride

May 23, 2022

In a northwest Ohio industrial park, Peloton Interactive is building a million-square-foot factory that it will never use. The once-hot stationary bike maker is now selling the facility, which cost $100 million and to be completed this fall, as it races to downsize a manufacturing operation expanded by leaders who believed Covid-driven demand would outlive the pandemic.

Their miscalculation about demand and the shift in the market have been so costly that Peloton—a company worth nearly $50 billion about a year ago (and now $5 billion)—has laid off thousands of people, had to borrow $750 million to head off a cash crunch and is exploring a sale. It is a reminder, writes The Wall Street Journal (May 21-22, 2022), that strategic choices—not just pandemic forces—determine how businesses emerge from the crisis. 

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Chips and Chip-Making

May 5, 2022

The drought in chip availability that has hit auto production, raised electronics prices and stoked supply-chain worries in capitals around the globe has a new pain point: a lack of chips needed for the machines that make chips.

The wait time it takes to get machinery for chip-making—one of the world’s most complex and delicate kinds of manufacturing—has extended over recent months. Early in the pandemic it took months from placing an order to receiving the equipment. That time frame has stretched to 2 or 3 years in some cases. Deliveries of previously placed orders are also coming in late.

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