Finding efficiencies through technology
Business leaders share lessons learned at manufacturing event

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Oct. 2, 2015

BROOKFIELD - On day one of Manufacturing Month, Waukesha County companies focused on how technology has changed and will continue to change their industry during a Waukesha County Business Alliance event Thursday.

Tom Feist, general manager of Advanced Manufacturing Engineering at GE Healthcare; Clayton Tychkowsky, president of Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems Business; and Mary Wehrheim, president of Stanek Tool, shared their perspectives on how technology has helped manufacturing to evolve.

Wehrheim said a significant part of implementing technology in a manufacturing business is communicating to the workers that the changes are positive.

“This is good for you. It’s good for the company. It’s good for the world,” she said of her message to employees.

One of those benefits is efficiency.

Feist said the Internet has been a huge game-changer in how it allows data to be transferred so that a doctor in Australia can be reviewing a Wisconsin patient’s X-ray.

“It has flattened the world dramatically,” he said. “It has allowed a number of players to come and compete.”

Implementing technology is driven by economic factors, such as wages, Tychkowsky said. Manually intense labor tends to be performed in places like Asia, while Europe adopted automatic work quicker.

While all the technology has created efficiencies, Tychkowsky said business leaders must be careful not to allow its use in their companies to get away from them or it could lead to many problems.

Feist agreed that technology must be used properly for the best results. Also important is harvesting the data collected by the technology and using it to help the company.

“It allows you to optimize the flow for your company,” he said.

The cost of technology must be carefully weighed against the potential benefits, Feist said.

It’s easy to fall in love with the new model of a machine, but Feist said it’s important to first estimate the potential payoff, as well as to evaluate how much immediate dip in productivity there will be after implementing the machine in the company.

“Our customers are expecting us to find ways to be more productive and technology helps us to do that,” Tychkowsky said.

Feist said it’s important to realize that a company can monetize the efficiencies. At GE Healthcare, he said, they not only sell the equipment but the solution and can guarantee that a certain amount of improvement will be realized with efficiency, for example.

“It’s perfectly reasonable to sell that value,” he said.