August 13, 2018  ·  by Scott Hohensinner
Shane Dittrich Headshot

Until recently, using robots in packaging operations was prohibitively expensive. Today, robotic systems are more affordable, which allows companies of all sizes to benefit from the technology. These systems also free technicians and other workers to focus on more complex tasks, and give companies greater flexibility in purchasing new equipment.

Formed in 2012, House of Design’s mission is to advance manufacturing using state-of-the-art robotic and industrial automation tools to help their customers operate more efficiently and productively. But these aren’t just off-the-shelf machines. The company’s talented engineers design, customize, and program robots to meet their customers’ exact needs.

These robots can work autonomously or safely alongside workers and a wide variety of packaging equipment. Working with ABB Robotics and Universal Robots, House of Design modifies and programs robots that specialize in pick and place applications common to packaging operations in agriculture, food processing, industrial manufacturing, and other industries. To see for yourself, check out the video below showing one of their packaging robots in action:

In our conversation with House of Design CEO Shane Dittrich, we talked about the ROI on robotics, the value of the data they provide, and how robots are actually helping produce jobs in the U.S. rather than displace workers.

At House of Design, do you modify equipment from other manufacturers or program robots to work with equipment as is?

We try to use as many off the shelf components as possible. However, we are continuously modifying equipment and components to make them compatible with our systems.

What tasks do your robots perform for packaging operations? And are there any robotics trends specific to the packaging industry you’d like to mention?

Our robotic systems perform a wide variety of packaging operations including single part, multi-part, and kitting. Right now, we’re seeing a huge need for kitting parts in a wide variety of industries.

Do robots collect data? If so, what can companies do with this information?

In today’s world data is very important. We use data collected from robots to help monitor uptime, diagnose problems, and even predict failures.

What is a typical ROI for robotics equipment in general.

The ROI is in the one- to two-year range.

How much training is required for your customers to use and maintain your robots?

For operators, not a lot of training is required since the robotic systems are fairly straightforward. Plus, any maintenance personnel can be trained if they are open to it, and we can train anyone. House of Design offers specific training classes ranging from operating to programming to maintenance.

Are robots a threat to jobs? Or can they actually help bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.?

The problem right now in the U.S. is not that we’re losing jobs. The challenge is finding people to fill the jobs. Every manufacturer I talk with complains about not having enough people. Will robots replace tasks that humans are now doing? Yes, but that person is typically moved into a more value-add position. We provide the machinery, infrastructure, and robots to help companies afford to onshore their manufacturing processes permanently.

We are helping to change jobs that are unsafe, unfulfilling, and have high turn-over rates into jobs that are more engaging and have a higher skill set that becomes marketable for the individual. The demand for automation is changing jobs and when companies have great employees they invest in them to learn new skills within the company. House of Design is proof of this. We have grown from two employees to more than 30 in just a few years, and we hope to continue to be a resource to create more manufacturing jobs here in Idaho where we’re based.