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Go Fast Manufacturing in partnership with WMEP Manufacturing Solutions announced it is the first completed project resulting from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation's Wisconsin Automation Implementation Grant.
Go Fast Manufacturing is a rapidly growing “one-stop” pallet and sawmill equipment company that offers a catalogue of machinery that includes conveyors, green-chains, trim saws, resaws, dedusters, chopsaws, board stackers, and notcher machines. Go Fast focuses on innovation and strives to build machines that allow their customers to achieve new levels of productivity and profitability.
“We were in a period of fast-paced growth and knew automation was important to achieving our goals,” said Dan Berken, president at Go Fast. “But we were hitting some roadblocks and our bank suggested we talk to WMEP.”
Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a not-for-profit organization that provides targeted consulting services for Wisconsin manufacturers. WMEP recommended its comprehensive Profit Risk Assessment and Go Fast immediately saw the value in that approach. Automation was one of the key recommendations to come out of the assessment in late December 2021. In June 2022, WMEP urged Go Fast to apply for the new WEDC Automation Implementation Grant to help pay for it.
The Wisconsin Automation Grant is designed to lower the risk of companies’ automation implementation by providing project selection and implementation assistance through WMEP’s Automation Advisor, and financial support from the WEDC. This program helps support companies’ implementation of technology that mitigates the effects of long-term worker shortages, while increasing productivity and innovation capabilities leading to increased competitiveness and growth opportunities for Wisconsin manufacturers.
To qualify for the grant, the company must have purchased or leased equipment between March 3, 2022 and Dec. 31, 2023. Qualifying manufacturers can receive up to 20% of the total equipment purchase cost (capped at $35,000) or up to 10% of the equipment lease expense (capped at $15,000), contingent on the current availability of WEDC program funds.
Go Fast already knew automation would be critical to achieving its ambitious goals: It would minimize outsourcing, which would cut costs, improve quality control and speed production time. To help gain employee buy-in, the company worked hard to convey the equipment would enhance, not replace, their jobs.
“Everybody in our facility was engaged and excited about the automation,” said Dennis Berken, Go Fast managing member. “They could see this would help make our product better and easier to produce and they were fully on board.”
During the assessment, WMEP evaluated any process that required physical labor to create a prioritized list of processes Go Fast could consider automating, ranked by their likely return on investment. Replacing an outdated plasma table with a laser cutter became the top option.
The cutter was installed in November 2022 and Go Fast has seen an increase in production, quality and safety with an expected return on investment of less than one year.
“Our customer base is all about automation, and our success going forward is going to be driven by how effectively we can automate our equipment to meet our customers’ needs,” said Berken. “We’re learning from this installation, and I think we’ll see new products and better processes coming out it.”