Modula Finds Success in Advanced Automation and Domestic Manufacturing

Modula is a global manufacturer of automated storage solutions for factories and warehouses around the world. When Modula was up against the task of choosing a new location for a production facility, Modula had to think outside the box. Instead of moving their production facility to a low-wage nation, Modula chose Lewiston, Maine, a unique location in the US for their new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. The $6 million,100,000sq.ft. factory, housed in a mid-century industrial warehouse, was completely redesigned to manufacture Modula’s Vertical Lift Modules.

For decades, cities in Maine such as Lewiston witnessed the disappearance of lucrative industries like shoemaking and paper products due to offshoring. The staggeringly high number of job losses was only partially offset by growth in the service sector. Automation systems are now beginning to turn things around for these formerly bustling cities. The productivity increase that modern automation provides allows today’s manufacturers to be cost-competitive with companies who outsource their manufacturing to Asia.

As a result of this automation “boom”, manufacturing in the US is once again feasible. As companies choose U.S-based manufacturing facilities, the benefits flow through the economy as a whole. Additionally, cost advantages of offshore production are disappearing quickly and significantly. China has seen a pattern of rising wages and the growing value of the yuan has led to manufacturing costs in China doubling. In comparison, manufacturing costs in the US have increased just over 25%.

In highly automated technology, productivity, and quality both increase, as technicians utilize advanced technology to control production from raw material to finished product. Banking, logistics, surgery and medical recordkeeping are just some of the industries in which automation is seemingly taking over many important tasks which could otherwise be at risk for human error.

A few years ago, Amazon made the groundbreaking decision to install 15,000 warehouse robots to pull items off the shelves and bring them closer to operators. Previously, pickers had to walk 11 miles per day in Amazon’s expansive warehouses. Due to this reduction of time spent walking, Amazon’s operators benefitted from improved ergonomics and working conditions, resulting in increased productivity, accuracy and decreased turnover.

Modula’s vertical storage products are advanced, automated solution themselves utilizing controlled motion that stores trays vertically, up to four inches from the ceiling, with the ability to hold up to 2,200lb. The VLM is a small, smart lift that retrieves and replaces parts or products without the wasted space and picking time of traditional rack storage. Since Modula produces 1,000 VLMs per year, the company must produce over 100,000 trays – something that would take an extensive amount of time and money if done manually. Thanks to ”maker” robots such as Comau of Southfield, MI, and automated punch and press makers like Salvagnini of Cincinnati, OH, Modula’s factory in Lewiston is at the forefront of efficient, state-of-the-art automation manufacturing technology.

Just as Modula benefits from automated systems, its customers also benefit from lowered costs and improved productivity of the VLMs built in Lewiston. The combination of advanced automation and domestic manufacturing is a win-win scenario for all parties, with the end users reaping the benefits of automated storage, and Lewiston’s economy gaining jobs as a result.

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