Community members tour Abacus Automation

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BENNINGTON — A handful of community members gathered at Abacus Automation for a tour Monday, the first of a series of outreach efforts by local manufacturers in connection with National Manufacturing Day last Friday.

Scott Elithorpe, president, led the group to multiple machines on the large, white-tiled shop floor of the plant, pointing out the different functions and designs of each.

"It's running different products," he said of one blue metal machine. The small parts, he said, come down a track on the machine, and a robot grabs a handful and places them in nearby boxes, putting foam over each layer until the box is full.

"This runs about 200 pumps a minute," he said. "Based on the diameter of the part, we have different programs."

This machine, he said, is pretty typical for the plant, maybe a little on the smaller side.

Abacus Automation designs and builds machines for manufacturing factories around the world, including Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico, the Carribbean and Brazil.

At another station, one tour attendee asked Elithorphe what his ideal job candidate would be.

"Somebody who likes to tinker with their own stuff," he said. And some hands-on training, too.

But, Elithorpe added, not all of the staff have four-year degrees. Some have two-year, or technical training.

"[We] bring a lot of people up through our company," he said. Another attendee asked about the company's work with high schools.

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Abacus Automation has high school interns, including one scheduled to begin work Tuesday, Elithorpe said.

At a smaller machine being retrofitted for NSK Steering Systems, Gavin Curtis, a design engineer, showed tour attendees how the machine tests the torque of steering column components.

"You see, the slip force failed," Curtis said, pointing to a display on the machine. That means that part would have to be marked as bad, he said.

"A lot of our machines have to be able to have that intelligence," Elithorpe said.

Ron Myers, of Bennington, said he'd also like to visit NSK, which is holding an open house on Thursday, Oct. 10 from 1-4 p.m.

"I'm very interested in how things are built," he said. "I'm just a curious old man."

Myers began his career as a machinist before moving into management.

Paul Donlon, a former high school English teacher, came to the tour out of curiosity.

"Just interested in what's going on in the community," he said. "You hear a lot of negative things about Bennington — not enough jobs. It's good to see things like this going on."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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