Western, Ashley Furniture announce robotics training partnership

Ashley, Western announce robotics...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A group of students at Western Technical College will be working with some state-of-the-art equipment thanks to a new partnership.

Ashley Furniture is teaming up with Western to provide robots and training simulators for the school's electro-mechanical technology program.

A total of six robots and three simulators will be included inside the new Ashley Furniture Industrial Automation Lab. A portable robot will also be kept at Western's Independence campus.

Western Technical College president Lee Rasch says there's currently a shortage of advanced-skill workers in the robotics field, and the new equipment will help students fill that high demand.

"The idea is with this kind of technology, they're going to be very, very ready for the workplace. Not necessarily at the entry level, but at a higher level because of the integration of skills that they have to do in this kind of a program," said Rasch.

Officials at Ashley say the partnership makes sense for them because they're very interested in integrating more robots into their manufacturing and they will eventually need workers who know how to program and operate them.

"In order to stay competitive with the world who is also doing a lot of robotics right now, we have to invest in technology, so we are very, very interested in this," said Ashley founder and chairman Ron Wanek.

Senior Vice President of Engineering James Dotta echoed that sentiment, saying increased use of robotics could make the company more efficient.

"The rest of the world is using robotics to improve the productivity of the people, and that's how in manufacturing you stay competitive, by improving your productivity," said Dotta.

In addition to donating the robots, the Wanek Foundation is also making a donation to Western to allow faculty to become certified on the equipment. Ashley's total donation to Western totals more than $470,000.

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