Click photo to enlarge
Dixie Zens, co-owner of Abacus Automation, gives a CCV class a tour of his company's facilities on Friday.

BENNINGTON >> To conclude Career Week 2016, local business Abacus Automation is opening its doors to the community this weekend.

Co-owner Dixie Zens gave a tour of the facilities to Jesse Herbert's Applied Math Concepts class from the Community College of Vermont on Friday. "We design things that have never been built before," said Zens, who noted that Abacus, which designs and programs the machines that are used in other companies' manufacturing, has customers all over the world, and as close by as next door, at NSK Steering Systems.

The company was founded in 1985, and started running out of Zens' barn, on Houghton Lane. "When I come in here, I don't call it work," he said, "I call this 'the playground.'"

The open house will take place at Abacus' facility at 264 Shields Drive in Bennington, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. All members of the community are welcome to attend.

Last year, NSK opened their doors to students and community members, the first time a business had done so as part of Career Week, which is designed to celebrate the connections between education and careers in the Bennington area, is organized by the Bennington County Industrial Corporation's School and Workforce Partnership. This year, it ran from April 4 through April 16, the first time the event has taken place over two weeks, and featured a multitude of events throughout the community for students and adults alike. Bill Colvin of the Bennington County Regional Commission, which recently absorbed the BCIC, joined the CCV students for their tour.


Zens told the students that almost nothing works perfectly on the first try, and that a large portion of the process involves troubleshooting and improving designs. Despite this, he said, there has only been one project in the company's 30 years that was considered unacceptable by the customer, which he described as an incredible record. "We have a lot of competitors, and we compete worldwide," he said.

Zens also addressed the changing nature of the workforce, and the role automation will play. "People say, 'You're getting rid of jobs.' No. We're changing jobs," he said, noting that automation is the key to competing with countries that have large workforces and low wages, "You can't have 50 people in a row on an assembly line anymore, because they want $18 an hour, and someone in China is willing to do it for a quarter."

According to the CCV website, Herbert's course, "develops students' ability to think quantitatively and use mathematics as a problem-solving tool in their professional and personal lives. Mathematical applications are selected from a range of business, human services, health, and political topics. Concepts include: set theory, visual representation of data, operations in the real number system, geometry, linear and nonlinear equations, linear systems, personal finance, probability and statistics."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.