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Automation and Technology: The Answer to Today’s Labor Shortage

Metal-Era Robotics and Technology
December 3, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.

By Dani Sheehan. 

Innovative technology not only ensures reliable solutions in edge metal but creates a more diverse pool for the workforce and addresses the problem of labor in roofing. 

In Season 1 Episode 13 of MetalCast, Heidi J. Ellsworth sits down with Brad Van Dam of MTL Holdings, parent company of Metal-Era, Hickman Edge Systems and Citadel Architectural Products, to talk about edge metal and its importance for overall roof performance. Brad shares some of the innovative ways MTL Holdings is improving the production of edge metal through automation and technology, and how this has also provided new opportunities in recruiting and labor shortages. 

By moving toward automating many of the processes that create potential errors in metal edge design, Brad says it has also increased the diversity of their workforce. He explains, “We’ve been able to get more folks engaged and involved in jobs that maybe they wouldn’t normally have gone after or thought about. We’ve also had some very good success in bringing folks from either the high school launch program and supporting their growth and development or one of the local technical college programs.” Heidi witnessed firsthand the use of hydraulics and other automation when she visited one of their manufacturing plants, but it hasn’t stopped there. MTL Holdings is also pushing for technology on the rooftop with their Falcon technology. 

We’re all intimately aware of the labor shortage hitting the roofing industry and as Brad puts it, “Today, skilled sheet metal labor is not falling off trees. It’s not something that everybody in school is raising their hand and saying, ‘Please, can I work with metal? Please, can I go up on a roof, 60 feet in the air?’” Unfortunately, we also are not seeing the young generation coming in to fill jobs as older employees retire. Brad continues, “You listen to NRCA talk about the need for more workers on a regular basis and bringing young people in to replace future retirees who have earned and deserve their retirement. I think we looked at the Falcon being able to do that measurement and offering that service through our region techs as an opportunity to help with that labor shortage and that skill gap through automation.” 

They showcased the Falcon at the International Roofing Expo (IRE) this year and had great success introducing it in the industry. It’s been a several-year development as a tool and an app that allows an operator to measure the roof edge for fabrication, simplifies the paperwork, and then provides all the backend installation information to the contractor in a paint by numbers level of detail. It’s a great addition to sales discussions. As Brad finishes, “It’s unique to us. It’s faster, it’s quicker. It really does alleviate the stress and pressure on the contractor to have someone that can measure that or fabricate it correctly.” 

Read the transcript, Listen to the podcast episode or Watch the webinar to learn more about edge metal and how MTL Holdings is helping to revolutionize the industry through robotics and automation.

Learn more about Metal-Era in their Coffee Shop Directory or visit www.metalera.com.

About Dani

Dani is a writer for the Coffee Shops and AskARoofer™. When she's not writing or researching, she's training for trail races and working on her yoga teaching certification.



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