How to overcome skilled assembly worker shortages

Not for the first time, manufacturers are under threat from a wide range of make-or-break challenges to remain competitive or even survive. They range from skilled assembly worker shortages to demands for reduced cycle times and higher quality output. For assembly work, light-guided operator systems solve some of these problems by reducing errors and eradicating repeat tasks. They help both new and experienced staff.

Using assembly robots addresses some skilled assembly worker shortages but may need a product redesigned to be practicable. Other assemblies are either unsuitable or too complex to automate, and hand assembly remains the only option. The challenge then becomes one of access to operators with the speed and precision to undertake repetitive assembly work. Skilled operators are in demand and have little difficulty in changing employers.

Addressing assembly worker shortages

Sometimes called ‘pick to light’, guided operator systems help operators avoid mistakes and overcome skilled assembly worker shortages. They work by controlling the picking sequence using lights, doors, operator terminals and touch sensors. The system guides the operator’s actions, leading to substantial improvements in quality, picking accuracy, assembly speed and consistency.

Examples of industries where the system is suitable for deployment include the automotive, logistics, semiconductor and life science sectors. They also have a major impact on reducing quality issues from occurring in manufacturing assembly processes.

Modular design

The modular design of the system is straightforward for users to put in place. Terminals installed at the operator’s workstation connect via a dedicated cable. They are set up with an address writer with dedicated controller mapping software. This simplifies application configuration, programming and maintenance.


Because the system is PLC controlled, it’s simple to connect other devices to the controller such as bar code scanners, electric screwdrivers and vision systems. This ensures that guided operator stations meet the needs of the operator and each task. It allows the fast and convenient switching of a workstation to different products or models.

Guided operator solutions help producers overcome skilled assembly worker shortages and eliminate human picking and assembly mistakes. They also help reduce waste, improve quality and boost productivity. Moreover, they increase operator involvement and can improve assembly speed and job satisfaction.

Finally, they eliminate the shipping of faulty products to customers and are in use at Mitsubishi Electric factories in the UK. Download the guided operator solutions brochure here


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