Robotic Technology Helps Offset Workforce Shortage - SD Manufacturing and Technology Solutions
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Robotic Technology Helps Offset Workforce Shortage

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

By Sara Wevik  January 28, 2020

The services provided by South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions are vital to the overall success of our company and aided Applied Engineering in realizing record growth with the labor shortage at an all-time high. Their staff consists of industry professionals who focus on continuous improvement and have access to a wealth of resources for additional support. MTS continues to assist us with productivity and technology projects allowing our business to grow and support increasing customer demands. Excellent job SD MTS! You are a key business partner to our company and we look forward to working with you in the future.”

 Justin Schramm, President

ABOUT Applied Engineering & The Freeman Company’s positive impact reaches far beyond the tight-knit community they call home in Yankton, South Dakota. For starters, the company provides around 240 well-paying jobs to people in the area. They have developed a strong apprenticeship program to advance students’ skills in precision machining and continue to sponsor students through the Build Dakota Scholarship program for those seeking a two-year degree in technical education.

CHALLENGE Even with all their workforce efforts, the tight labor market and economic expansion required Applied Engineering, Inc. & The Freeman Company to look for innovative solutions to combat the workforce shortage they faced. The company decided to contact South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions, who they viewed as a trusted resource, to advise them on how to increase production levels to meet customer demand without adding additional labor.

SOLUTION MTS set up an initial meeting with Applied Engineering Inc & The Freeman Company to talk about their goals, challenges, and to generate some ideas for potential projects. The manufacturing team gave MTS a facility tour, and together they identified opportunities for automation. From there, the group decided the best solution would be to implement a collaborative robot.  After specifying the equipment needs, MTS helped calculate the robot’s ROI, and developed a detailed plan to move forward.

Over the next six months, MTS worked collaboratively with the manufacturer to design, integrate, and train staff on how to use the new technology. The project consisted of using the collaborative robot, with a custom-designed end-effector, to load and unload parts into fixtures on the assembly line. Furthermore, the technology interlaced with an automated turntable system, which allowed one set of fixtures to be loaded while the second was being machined. Throughout the project, MTS worked diligently to develop and test multiple versions of the operation to achieve optimal performance. MTS conducted quality assurance checks along the way to ensure excellence and worked on-site to test the technology in the machining center.

Once the final development was complete, MTS started to train the engineers. MTS met with the employees who oversaw the equipment and taught them how to operate the new technology. Soon the staff became comfortable using the equipment and began to use it in their daily operations.   

The new robotic technology transformed operations from simply surviving to thriving. It allowed operations to be restructured more efficiently to free up valuable employee time. The impact was exponential. Today, MTS continues to work with the Yankton team to design and integrate custom automation so that they can meet their customer demand and increase their capacity for future sales.  MTS takes pride in helping businesses position their company for growth and achieve real results.


  •  Increased machine utilization by approximately 23%
  • Created an uninterrupted workflow
  • Created a process that is 100% consistent and repeatable 100% of the time
  • Supported business growth in a time of labor shortage

Automation is a great solution for machine tending work and it may be less expensive and easier than you think! Feel free to contact MTS today if you have any questions about automating.


Categories: Success Stories