For a major automotive client, Edgewater Automation recently developed an assembly system utilizing ATI’s Tool Changers to increase productivity of their existing line. When coupled with increased throughput and reduced labor requirements, the application upgrade afforded the customer tremendous savings of time and money, as well as numerous safety benefits and improved equipment utilization.
The customer’s initial problem was a good one to have; due to increased demand, they had more orders than they had the capacity to produce. Having more work than knowing what to do with is usually a sign that customers are happy and the reputation is good. Unfortunately for growing companies, it is often difficult to decide whether to invest in more capacity, outsource the extra work, or increase lead times –all of which involve different risks and rewards. In this case, the customer’s only hope of producing at a higher rate and meeting customer expectations would be to optimize the space and equipment they already had. They needed to elevate the existing process with a smart, cost-effective solution.
The original production line utilized six operators spread across three different work cells. The operators used heavy equipment to complete a series of manual tasks to manufacture automotive swing arm assemblies. Though the customer was using robotic automation in each work cell, the robots and tooling were limited to performing singular tasks. There was also a lot of stopping and starting as operators moved into and out of the work cell to clear debris, execute the manual tasks, and orient parts and equipment.
Edgewater was challenged to create an improved system that would not increase the footprint of the operation. Knowing they had to work with the customers’ existing FANUC Robot arms and floor space limitations, they employed ATI’s Robotic Tool Changers to bring dissimilar processes, such as picking and fastening, into a smooth automated system. Integrating ATI’s Robotic Tool Changers enabled the customer’s FANUC Robots to use multiple end-effectors to complete a variety of jobs.
In one of the work cells, a robot now uses 3D vision technology and pick tooling to inspect a dunnage tray, orient and select parts from the tray, and finally, mount the parts to a swing arm assembly. Once complete, the robot makes a tool change to select a different end-effector to remove the now empty dunnage tray from the staging area and replace it with a new full tray. By streamlining this process with ATI’s Robotic Tool Changers, Edgewater reduced the labor and equipment requirements and increased the productivity of the entire application.
The improvements Edgewater brought to their customer freed four of the six operators to focus on specialized tasks such as programming, inspection, and quality. Eliminating manual processes and reducing the number of workers in the cell provides two benefits: it reduces potential hazards to workers in the cell, and it encourages employees to develop higher-level skills in other critical manufacturing areas.
The newly automated process realizes improved quality due to the unparalleled repeatability of ATI’s Tool Changers combined with the high efficiency of the robots. This contributes to an overall reduction in cycle time due to automated changeovers, longer production runs, and quicker processing. Edgewater delivered a textbook win-win situation; safer work environment for employees, increased quality of finished goods, and improved utilization of the production cell. Actually, that makes it a win-win-win!
ATI Industrial Automation is proud to work with Edgewater to develop these custom automation solutions for global factories. Together, ATI and Edgewater seek to create intelligent solutions to maximize process efficiency.
For more information, please visit http://www.ati-ia.com.