ST. MARYS —At Setex Inc., the advancement of modern day practices has not had a negative impact on employment numbers.
“We have never had to lay anyone off as a result of technology,” said Owen Whittington, the plant manager.
Setex manufactures automobile car seats for Honda, as well as doing welding at its metal plant. The two facilities are within just a few feet of each other on McKinley Road in St. Marys. The company was founded in 1987 and employs more than 500 people. The 40,000 square foot welding facility was constructed in 2013 to accommodate for expansion.
“Because we are building seats, there is a certain craftsmanship that you can only do hands-on,” Whittington said. “You can’t replace craftsmanship.”
While making car seats may be a craft, Whittington said constantly improving knowledge on that craft is the key to success. The company has obviously met that challenge, being honored for producing its 5 millionth seat for Honda in 2012.
“There are constant demands for safety and constant demands for comfort,” Whittington said. “The seat is a safety element in and of itself, separate from the vehicle. They are much more complex.”
Whittington said most changes to car seats are driven by the consumer.
“Constant improvement is always important in the industry because the improvements are customer-driven,” Whittington said. “They want comfort, and they want safety, whether that is heated seats or something else. It makes the seats more complex.”
Whittington said other modern changes have been the use of robots in the facility. He said while robots cannot replace craftsmanship, they can be used in other roles that make jobs more efficient.
“They serve in other roles,” Whittington said. “We can use them for welding or for moving components around. We have seen an increased use in robots.”
Whittington has been on hand to see those changes, working at the plant for 12 years, including the last four as the plant manager. Whittington said the other most noticeable change has been in keeping track of parts.
“Keeping track of data and the increase in scanning and controlling of component parts is heightened,” Whittington said. “There is an increased demand and ability to keep track of what exactly was put in each and every seat that is produced.”