Blending Robotics and Employees: A Manufacturing Success Story

Fall-Protection Leader SixAxis Thrives with Innovative Practices

ANDREWS, S.C., Feb. 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- This week the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) reported that the American manufacturing sector had contracted for the fourth consecutive month. Also reported was that manufacturing employment had dropped to a six-and-half-year low.


One manufacturer bucking these trends is SixAxis and its manufacturing division of various manufacturing of fall-protection safety-related products, including popular industrial brands like SafeRack and ErectaStep. The company has done this with forward thinking that includes the blending of robotics and its culture of technology and customer-focused employees. In fact, SixAxis has achieved:

A reduction in labor rate from 38 percent to 7 percent in the last 10 years - with consistently adding, not reducing, new employees at higher wage rates
A need to hire 100 skilled, non-minimum wage workers
A growth of 500 percent from five years ago
A $20 million investment to expand its Andrews, S.C.-based headquarters on top of a $6 million expansion investment only 2.5 years ago
"We believe through technology that manufacturing can continue to thrive in the United States and eliminate the need to outsource," said Rob Honeycutt, co-founder and CEO of SixAxis. "Our ability to mesh technology and our skilled workforce has allowed SixAxis to provide its customers with a better product, which has led to our growth."

SixAxis is among good company. While smaller in stature than the major automakers, it utilizes the same type of robotic technology in its Andrews facility as Tesla, Honda, Volvo and others. By using these robotics and technology through the entire process - from custom design to finished result - SixAxis can manufacture high-quality, precision-built, customized products to meet its customers' needs with a shortened production cycle that yields more revenue.

This process has made SixAxis' brands a category leader in the fall-protection industry. In fact, nearly every Fortune 500 company has purchased the company's OSHA-compliant products.

These products are sold both internationally and domestically. However, all of the company's products are made in Andrews, S.C.

"We continue to evolve and improve thanks to technology, while adding to the work force here in the United States," said Honeycutt. "We hope other American manufacturers follow this path."

About SixAxis

SixAxis is the holding company for 10 brands that encompass the fall protection, loading platform, sales resource planning and marketing industries. The company is headquartered in Andrews, S.C., and is led by co-founders Rob Honeycutt and Fred Harmon.

SafeRack, ErectaStep, PerfectaStep, RollaStep, YellowGate, ErectaRack, Atlatl Software, Quotebooks, Liquid Transfer Group and Red7 make up the 10 brands of SixAxis. These brands are located in Andrews, S.C., along with satellite offices in Charleston, S.C.; Sumter, S.C.; Georgetown, S.C.; and Kent, England.

To learn more about SixAxis, visit sixaxisllc.com.

Featured Product

Universal Robots - Collaborative Robot Solutions

Universal Robots - Collaborative Robot Solutions

Universal Robots is a result of many years of intensive research in robotics. The product portfolio includes the UR5 and UR10 models that handle payloads of up to 11.3 lbs. and 22.6 lbs. respectively. The six-axis robot arms weigh as little as 40 lbs. with reach capabilities of up to 51 inches. Repeatability of +/- .004" allows quick precision handling of even microscopically small parts. After initial risk assessment, the collaborative Universal Robots can operate alongside human operators without cumbersome and expensive safety guarding. This makes it simple and easy to move the light-weight robot around the production, addressing the needs of agile manufacturing even within small- and medium sized companies regarding automation as costly and complex. If the robots come into contact with an employee, the built-in force control limits the forces at contact, adhering to the current safety requirements on force and torque limitations. Intuitively programmed by non-technical users, the robot arms go from box to operation in less than an hour, and typically pay for themselves within 195 days. Since the first UR robot entered the market in 2009, the company has seen substantial growth with the robotic arms now being sold in more than 50 countries worldwide.