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Robot Rise at University of Memphis

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A new center for advanced automation and robotics will come to Memphis, due in part to a $1 million grant from the U.S Department of Labor.

The new Mid-South Advanced Automation and Robotics Center (AARC) will be run from the University of Memphis (U of M) Herff College of Engineering and function as an automation and robotics training center.

Plans for the AARC came about due to the growing number of robotics in the transportation and logistics sector in Memphis. As the tech sector has boomed, the need for a program in which Memphians can gain advanced training and practice with automated systems has skyrocketed, according to the U of M. School officials hope the AARC will fill that gap.

The new center will focus on robotics and automation. - UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS/FACEBOOK
  • University of Memphis/Facebook
  • The new center will focus on robotics and automation.

"The AARC addresses a critical need in our workforce pipeline," said Greater Memphis Chamber president and CEO Beverly Robertson. "The opportunity to bring an automation training solution to our city will help ensure that local residents are able to compete for future jobs in Memphis and guarantee our competitive advantage in attracting top-tier technologically driven corporations to the city."

The area's ties to the transportation sector have always run deep but got even deeper with two recent investments. In early 2019, FedEx Logistics announced a $43 million project to move its headquarters to Downtown Memphis. More recently, DHL announced an $85.7 million Memphis campus to give logistics service for medical devices and YETI coolers. Both companies are on hiring blitzes here in anticipation of the upcoming rush of holiday package volumes.

The AARC will be designed to ensure that training can be updated easily for potential future job sectors. The center plans to employ Amatrol Skill Boss Logistics supply chain automation training units and Yaskawa-based robot training to give trainees hands-on experience and knowledge.

Certificate-based training will be available to students of the University of Memphis, Southwest Tennessee Community College, and other partner institutions, as well as training for veterans. In total, the AARC will service eight counties in three states while providing economic support to trainees who qualify.

"The AARC will be a significantly positive addition to not only our University but also our city," said U of M president M. David Rudd. "It will provide vast opportunity for our students, local employers, and relevant workforce growth within Memphis. It's a grant we are honored to accept and a mission we very much look forward to executing."

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the trade group for manufacturing automation, has reported increases in automation for several years. But sales of automation machines have contracted in the first half of 2020.

"It's clear that our industry is feeling the effects of COVID-19, its strain on supply chains, and the overall economic uncertainty due to our current circumstances," said Alex Shikany, A3 vice president of Membership and Business Intelligence. "Despite the numbers reflecting these recent challenges, our latest market surveys tell us that there is optimism for what the next six months will bring."

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