- June 05, 2017
By Cory Fogg, Automation.com
Smaller manufacturers wishing to automate, may not have all the specialists they need on staff. With hiring processes taking days or weeks, the FactoryFix automated platform is working to connect these manufacturers with specialists in minutes
By Cory Fogg, Content Editor, Automation.com
A large manufacturing conglomerate may have every specialist under the sun on their payroll to streamline operations, but when machines break or become obsolete for the smaller and medium manufacturers, they don’t always have that luxury. When a production line goes down or an automation system fails, under a looming project deadline, and the two engineers on staff are stumped, what’s a company to do? A weeks-long hiring process is impractical, especially on a deadline. “Usually, we’d just find friends at automation companies to help,” recalls Patrick O’Rahilly. But even that, with the pay and paperwork was time-consuming. It was this conundrum that drove O’Rahilly’s creation of FactoryFix, an automated platform to connect companies with outside specialists.
A Goal to Spread the Wealth of Engineering Expertise
The problem that he and FactoryFix is trying to solve is not unknown to the manufacturing industry. The North American Manufacturer’s (NAM) Outlook Survey for the 1st quarter of 2017 showed that the top two current concerns for manufacturers were rising costs of healthcare/insurance (65.1% of respondees) and attracting and retaining a quality workforce (63.5%). The ability to seemingly ‘rent’ an expert would seem like an attractive potential short-term solution to allay these concerns, and that’s the center of what FactoryFix aims to achieve.
The FactoryFix aim is to deliver smaller and medium-sized manufacturers fast access to engineering experts across multiple specialties, in a matter of clicks, to help with any job that the manufacturer doesn’t have the capability to do itself. “We’re trying to help these manufacturers that want to automate,” explains O’Rahilly. “But perhaps don’t have the budget for an automation team, or a robot/PLC integrator.” The FactoryFix, however, goes beyond just budgetary concerns. Most importantly, in O’Rahilly’s mind, is the time-saving factor.
Specialists can use FactoryFix to find side projects and submit their hourly rate bids to companies via the app.
Finding the Right Specialist with a Smartphone?
Described as almost an “Uber-like experience”, a manufacturer who uses FactoryFix, via computer or the mobile app, enters the basic description of the job and how long it would take. Within minutes, the program will deliver bids from experts, based on hourly-rate, that are interested in the job. Once the manufacturer finds the ideal specialist, they accept the bid. Thus, FactoryFix has worked to cut the hiring process from days, and hours, to minutes. “Usually responses to a job come within a half-hour,” O’Rahilly claimed, “and our process cuts out much of the paperwork [for the manufacturer].” Once the expert shows up to work, the manufacturer pays FactoryFix, and FactoryFix pays the expert.
While FactoryFix might seem like a mobile temp agency on the surface, O’Rahilly was quick to point out the differences. In his years as founder and operator of robotics integrator Compass Automation, O’Rahilly is well-acquainted with temp agencies. “We tried temps,” said O’Rahilly. “But we often got bottom-of-the barrel talent with a lot of red flags.” In contrast, the FactoryFix expert database is made up of some 400 experts, all working full-time jobs, who are working with FactoryFix as a means of side income. O’Rahilly pointed out that all potential experts apply for the FactoryFix network, and must have a minimum of five years professional experience, and suggests that the network is just as much for specialists as it is for manufacturers. “Think about top web developers in Silicon Valley, almost all of them have some side project, because there is lots of demand for them,” explained O’Rahilly. “FactoryFix is a platform to help [engineers] to gain similar extra income.”
Experts apply for inclusion in the FactoryFix network and get notifications when manufacturers are looking for help. Currently the majority of the FactoryFix pool is centered in the midwest manufacturing hub
Growing Towards the Connected Future
So, do services like FactoryFix represent the future of manufacturing hiring processes? That remains to be seen. In FactoryFix’s specific case, geographic coverage still has some ways to go. Currently, the major focus of their expert pool is in the Midwest. “Most of [the experts] are within 200 miles of Chicago,” said O’Rahilly. “But we’re starting to grow more aggressively towards other cities in the Midwest.” While the long-term goals are to spread to all the major US manufacturing hubs, much like the Uber model it emulates, it will take time to spread throughout the country. Given that the company’s primary means of expansion, according to O’Rahilly, has been through LinkedIn and word of mouth, FactoryFix’ particular case will be determined by the satisfaction of the manufacturers it aims to serve.
While manufacturers are in a frenzy to automate their internal processes, the hiring process has still largely been a quagmire of lengthy interviews, endless paperwork, and at the end of the day, a black hole of overhead costs. While the success of FactoryFix on automating this costly hiring process remains yet to be determined, the potential of automation to completely reshape countless processes – for so many industries, both inside the plant and out – seems to constantly grow more exciting every day.Learn More
Did you enjoy this great article?
Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..Subscribe