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Faces of Interface Featuring Lance Gerdes

Lance Gerdes grew up as a “military brat” who moved around the world with his family to various U.S. Air Force bases because his father was an Avionics Specialist. For some children this would be a burden; however, for Gerdes, it was an opportunity to connect with his father and brothers over the inner-workings of aviation, cars, and sailboats. The family would work on the different vehicles they owned together, and his father who was a flight instructor would even take them up in planes. It is easy to see how Gerdes became a mechanical engineer and one of his brothers became a flight engineer.

Being a military family member also provided Gerdes with a culturally-diverse background. He attended schools across the world before graduating high school in Okinawa, Japan, where his family was stationed at the time. He eventually made his way back to the United States, where he attended college at Northern Arizona University earning his degree in mechanical engineering.

Lance began his professional career in the nuclear industry doing nuclear maintenance and nuclear refueling for various U.S. contractors, including Westinghouse, Babcock & Wilcox and Nuclear Engineering Services. He remained in the sector until his son was born, at which time he decided to relocate to Scottsdale, Arizona. After moving, he began working at Calibron, a manufacturer of liquid calibration devices.

As his career brought Gerdes further into the mechanical engineering side of things, he eventually found Interface. He joined the company because his work with load cells and force measurement devices allowed him to realize how diverse the field is in its applications. Some of the applications that have impressed him the most include how to measure the force on the enormous mirrors made at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at The University of Arizona which are used on the Magellan Telescope (GMTO) being built in Chile, or how load cells used to do crash-landing tests with air and spacecraft.

Today, Gerdes works as the Continuous Improvement Subject Matter Expert (SME) at Interface. In this role, he leads a group of 12 specialized technicians that are responsible for creating one of Interface’s newest and most innovative product lines. This invention, the proprietary 1923 Wireless Series Load Cell, is a significant product line for the company. This exclusive product is designed for the oil and gas industry, which allows users to avoid pump jacks going too fast and interrupting the capillary flow of oil. The high-performance wireless load cell, which is incorporated into the manufacturer’s original equipment, sits on the pump jack and monitors the force at which the jack pumps, providing real-time data to avoid over-pumping.

Learn more about how Lance and his team are utilizing automation tools and robotics for advancing innovation and continuous improvements in building precision load cell solutions for OEMs. Click here to read more.

Gerdes’ life has revolved around engineering since he can remember. From living abroad on military bases to nuclear and mechanical engineering, his passion continues to exude this commitment and energy in making an impact at Interface and for the customer.

In his free time, he likes to decompress from it all and enjoy a good balance. At home, his life revolves around his family, his five German shorthaired pointer dogs and his love for the peaceful escape of camping and hunting. Gerdes has been married for 25 years, and he and his wife have a 24-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.  He is active with his children’s extra-curricular activities, including coaching baseball, basketball, and swimming. He and his family love to go camping and boating together, and Gerdes is an avid big game bowhunter.

To learn more about the brilliant minds that shape Interface, follow our monthly Faces of Interface feature on our blog.

 

 

Robotics and Automation are Changing Modern Manufacturing at Interface

As the leader in manufacturing force measurement solutions for more than 51 years, the day of carrying out monotonous tasks on the manufacturing line by hand is a history not worth repeating.

Innovation is a core value at Interface. It is essential in helping us advance and grow our production experience and responsiveness to our customer’s advanced application use of our load cells, torque transducers, and thousands of other products that we manufacture.

Continuous Improvement SME Lance Gerdes shares his insight into how a focus on innovation is leading to the introduction of automation tools and robotics onto the manufacturing floor at Interface’s 50,000 square foot headquarters in Arizona.

It is difficult to look back fondly on the days that lacked automation of production line tasks. Line work was straining and tedious during those days, as most technicians would agree. Fast-forward to today, companies who are incorporating new technology are typically experiencing process improvements, increased efficiency, reduced overhead, improved quality output and better run facilities overall.

Results speak for themselves. Manufacturing facilities equipped with automation can significantly reduce time spent on repetitive work, freeing up time for technicians to focus on other areas that advance production and get products to market.

Interface recently invested in a line of collaborative robots to upgrade our facilities. With responsibility for the specialized 1923 Wireless Load Cell product line at Interface, looking back there are many of the typical tasks our technicians used to carry out that involved full days of certain repetitive tasks by hand. The days where my technicians were forced to focus on these tasks represented a significant barrier to peak productivity. Times have changed and so has Interface!

Today with the introduction of automation, we are operating more efficiently than in those dark ages without robotics. We are using collaborative robots to handle tasks, including the application of RTV, which is a silicone sealant used on load cells to protect them from environmental factors. In the past, the technician would be responsible for applying this adhesive in addition to hand-tooling. By automating the adhesive step of this task, those technicians are averaging 50% more efficiency in their workflow.

“Robotics used to facilitate automation is a “must-have” addition to every manufacturing floor.” Lance Gerdes

The return on investment is easily achievable in a year or less. Interface has seen as high as a 15% production increases across the board. As a champion of continuous improvements in our manufacturing, I am excited to see our production results. This success is now leading us to look into more tasks that can be automated using collaborative robotics.

One concern regarding the rise of robotics in the industrial sector we constantly get questions about is the use of robotics as a replacement for our human workforce. This could not be further from the truth at Interface. If anything, robotics will eventually increase the skill set of our current technicians and open up new job openings for Interface as we grow. As we get more advanced collaborative robotics integrated into our work, it improves our capabilities. We will need operators for this automation equipment. And, as we become more efficient and increase profit margins, we’ll have the capacity to grow Interface’s products and services. A win for more jobs, more solutions, and more happy customers!

Robotics and automation are changing the way manufacturing floors operate for the better. At Interface, we look forward to researching and applying new ways that each department can implement automation and robotics technology.

Contributor:  Lance Gerdes, Continuous Improvement SME, Interface

More than half of Interface’s team members work in production. The average tenure for our team is nearly a decade. Our diverse talent in skill and capabilities serve more than 4,500 global customers in various markets each year. For more detailed insights on the inner-working of the Interface manufacturing floor, Interface’s revolutionary products and profiles on our excellent team subscribe to the InterfaceIQ blog.