Flexible Packaging Round Table Podcast

Podcast: Episode 18 – Kasie Fairbarn from Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corporation

What are the benefits or drawbacks of old & new manufacturing equipment? Is there a noticeable difference between the performance and quality of manufactured goods made with old vs new equipment? How does an increased reliance on automated machinery impact workers in the manufacturing industry?

Tune in to hear what Kasie Fairbarn, Product Sales Manager for Blown Film from the Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corporation has to say.


00:00:22 Sara Januszewski
Hello and welcome everyone to the Flexible Packaging Round Table. I am so excited to have Kasie Fairbarn back for our Part-2 discussion. If you missed Part-1, be sure to check it out on our YouTube channel at Glenroy Inc, but for this episode we will be discussing the benefits and drawbacks of old and new equipment. I am your host, Sara Januszewski. Thank you again for being here Kasie. Are you ready to jump right in.

00:00:47 Kasie Fairbarn
I’m ready. Let’s do it.

00:00:50 Sara Januszewski
Alright, so to start, what are the benefits or drawbacks of using old and new manufacturing equipment? 

00:00:59 Kasie Fairbarn
I think some of the benefits for new manufacturing equipment, I’ll start there, are certainly stuff like increased outputs, increased efficiency, the ability to run different materials or different combinations of materials, improved quality, improved safety. I think with new equipment sometimes you know this, this one is undervalued, but it should be of a higher value is, it shows better to your customers when you’re doing tours and visits and audits. Just the way it looks. So those are those are some of the benefits of new manufacturing equipment and obviously the drawbacks of new manufacturing equipment are typically, you know, familiarity with it. People can be intimidated, you know, change is hard.

00:01:52 Kasie Fairbarn
Yeah, change is hard. So it’s just it’s, I liked my old thing and now you gave me this new thing. What am I supposed to do with it? So that’s a drawback. And obviously sometimes people, you know, cost right. New equipment is going to be more expensive if you haven’t invested in new equipment in a long time, maybe you get some sticker shock. But of course, if you’re looking at the return on investment and you’re looking at the long term, what that can get you. You can quickly see that it might be worth it for you. But I will say that I have so many customers who love their old equipment and it’s working for them, right. So, the benefits of old equipment are, you are familiar with it and you know its maintenance records, it’s been well maintained and loved. It likely even has a name at your facility, right. It’s almost like another worker there. And so, you know, it does what you need it to do.

00:02:58 Kasie Fairbarn
Yeah, there’s plenty of benefits of having old equipment, too. Of course, everything we’re gonna talk about today depends on how old are we talking. So, keep that in mind. But yeah, definitely pros and cons of both.

00:03:13 Sara Januszewski
Is there a noticeable difference between the performance and quality of manufactured goods made with old versus new equipment? 

00:03:21 Kasie Fairbarn
Yeah, this is a great question. Kind of like to my last point. Depending on what you’re making, you might not see any difference, right? If it’s something that’s more simple or it’s, you know, just has some basic print on it, you might not see a difference between old and new. But as I was thinking about this question in particular, I was thinking about all of the meetings I’ve been with marketing teams, where you’ve showed them two different packages. And they will be able to pick up on a package that you know is made with really flat film and has good gauge control. It is printed perfectly and is converted with value-add features. You know they will touch it and say I like this one better and I guarantee that that one was made on newer assets and equipment. And so, I would say that for those kind of applications, there is a difference between performance and quality that people can feel and see.

00:04:21 Sara Januszewski
And how do you feel about the rapidly advancing technology in the manufacturing industry? 

00:04:29 Kasie Fairbarn
Yeah, I think for where I work, at when Windmoeller & Hoelscher and in my job, I love it. It’s really exciting for me. I work for a company that’s proud of their innovations and how much they’re reinvesting into the future with their innovations. I think technology is all around us and everything we do, I see what my kids are learning in school. I see the way it’s affected our ability to communicate and just changed our lives, right? I think it’s obviously here to stay. And it’s silly almost to think that it wouldn’t infiltrate our industry and others and manufacturing and whatnot like it’s here, it’s coming. So, I’ve embraced it personally. I think it’s exciting. I’m always interested to read about what’s coming next, and I think that we need to be open-minded.

00:05:23 Sara Januszewski
Yeah, I was going to say I feel like we’re at that point where you can’t ignore it, it’s just going to keep coming and keep advancing. 

00:05:32 Kasie Fairbarn
Yeah, yeah.

00:05:34 Sara Januszewski
And then, building off that last question, I mean, do you think there is any danger in becoming too reliant on technology in the manufacturing industry? 

00:05:45 Kasie Fairbarn
So, I’d like to reframe it a little bit like I don’t look at it as is it too dangerous. I look at it as how do we marry it with what we have today? How do we become more familiar with it? What’s the right way to do it and order for us to not become too reliant on the new technology, I think what some of my customers have done that has been successful is they’ve done a training approach with their staff on, you know, like, Step 1: teaching the history of why we do it the way we do it today and the theory behind it and then, Step 2: teaching them the old school way so that they know and then, Step 3: is introducing them to the technology and letting that unfold. And not giving that to them first, but giving that to them last and they still know how to do it the traditional way.

00:06:50 Kasie Fairbarn
The analogy is when I learned how to drive a car, I learned on a stick shift. You know, that was my first car and I know how to drive that but today I drive an automatic, and I would always want an automatic if I could. But if I go to Germany and I’m traveling and they give me a rental car, that’s a stick, I will be ok, you know, so as long as we still understand the older way, and the traditional way, and are introduced to the technology and a stepped approach. I don’t think that we’ll ever become too reliant on technology because we will understand both ways still and we will continue that approach in our training to people in the future. I think that’s the best way to do it, and I think that’s how you take some of the intimidation and the scare factor out of it.

00:07:44 Sara Januszewski
Yeah, I love that answer. And next question here, how does an increased reliance on automated machinery impact workers in the manufacturing industry? And then how is the workforce changing? 

00:07:59 Kasie Fairbarn
Yeah, I think as workers rely more on automation, hopefully you know their job is going to be, I think it’s going to be less labor intensive. I think it’s going to be less redundant. I think it’s going to be safer, you know. So, I think reliance on automation is going to help them in those ways and impact them in a positive way so that they can go and put their time and efforts into something that needs more human attention. The machine can run, you know, more on its own, more frequently so that they can focus their efforts elsewhere. And the workforce is changing, I mean, it’s diversifying. People are coming in with different expectations. People are not the workers of the 20s and the 30s and the 40s. They’re very, very different. And depending on where you are, especially in North America, it’s also very different, right. I just hope that the automation can help any of those workers depending on their knowledge level or where they’re located geographically. And I hope it can help them in a positive way like I said so that the job is a little easier on them physically and it’s more rewarding. And they feel safe doing the job.

00:09:21 Sara Januszewski
Yeah, totally. And then I mean, just to wrap it up here, is there anything else that you would like to add or shout out? 

00:09:29 Kasie Fairbarn
I’d like to shout out, you know, the veterans of the industry. The people who have been doing it for a long, long time, who have seen the changes over the years and those people who are having to train the next workforce and the future workforce, and they’re having to introduce this automation that we’re seeing so rapidly and that they are embracing it and they’re figuring out the best way to introduce it and to leverage it. Big shout out to those people. I think you guys have seen it all and now you’re even seeing the future, you’ve been involved at every step of the way and I appreciate those people who have taught me stuff that I didn’t know and how we’ve been able to come together to create a mutual understanding about the old school way and the new and the newer ways and how we can marry those together. So, shout out to those people.

00:10:27 Sara Januszewski
Well said, totally agree. And then I mean, just to conclude things here, I just wanted to thank you, Kasie, for joining us today. This was an awesome episode, and I really learned a lot. So, thank you so much.

00:10:39 Kasie Fairbarn
Thank you, Sara. Good to be back.


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