NM manufacturers should embrace innovation, experts say - Albuquerque Journal

NM manufacturers should embrace innovation, experts say

Jennifer Sinsabaugh

New Mexico’s manufacturing sector is ever-changing, from upskilling the local workforce to adapting to new technologies that can help streamline the workflow of some companies.

And it is important that companies, both large and small, welcome those changes with open arms to remain a vital part of the state’s economy.

Those were some of the thoughts on display Wednesday at the Economic Forum of Albuquerque, which featured guest speakers Jennifer Sinsabaugh, the CEO of the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Program, and Build with Robots CEO and co-founder Chris Ziomek.

Build with Robots CEO Chris Ziomek watches Breezy One clean a room June 29, 2021. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

“Skill sets are great, but we find that world is changing quickly — so being able to learn and take on new skills and retrain (is vital),” Ziomek said.

To put the manufacturing sector into perspective, it’s important to know the local makeup.

About 33% of manufacturing companies in the state have between 10 and 24 employees, and most have 50 employees or less. More than 75% of those businesses are primarily located in Central New Mexico. And 54% make between $1 million and $5 million, Sinsabaugh said.

More specifically, nearly a quarter of manufacturers work specifically in engineering services — acting as a leg to the laboratories and universities. Commercial and industrial machinery, which includes servicing the aerospace industry, also makes up about 10% of manufacturers in the state.

Sinsabaugh said New Mexico companies can upskill their workforce by offering trainings to help employees adapt to new technologies, and by accepting those advancements to begin with.

Ziomek’s company, Build with Robots, has been at the forefront of helping businesses implement different technologies. That includes the firm’s Breezy One robot, which can disinfect large spaces such as the University of New Mexico’s basketball arena and at the Sunport, among other places. The Breezy One uses a mixture of chemicals developed at Sandia National Laboratories — meant for decontaminating biological weapons — that are sprayed by an autonomous robot in a large space, such as a school. Ziomek said it can disinfect hundreds of thousands of square feet in about an hour. The company is currently in the process of manufacturing a smaller Breezy product, with about 1,000 expected to be created by November, Ziomek said.

How Build with Robots utilizes technology – and ultimately how it applies it – is how manufacturers should look at it, too, Ziomek said. There are large-scale changes coming to manufacturing, including the further advancement of automation, that can streamline workflows and add value to companies’ offerings. But that first requires manufacturers be willing to accept change, and invest in it, Sinsabaugh said.

“Manufacturing needs to make technology investments,” Sinsabaugh said. “They’ve got to procure those technologies, and the beautiful thing is they’re not all that expensive. They’re not millions and millions of dollars.”

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