Welding automation used to be for the big boys! High volume – low mix – expensive integration. Times have changed. Robotic welding automation has come to the masses, but when and how do you know it is right for you? This question is the same for companies big and small it’s just that big companies have practiced asking these questions. Here are some places to start if you need help?
For many organizations still employing manual welding processes, the notion of integrating a robotic welding system into that sphere can be a challenging concept for a variety of reasons. There are so many factors to consider, such as the cost of purchasing the new technology, training welders and other staff to operate it, and looking ahead at whether or not the investment will be the right choice going forward. Like any major business decision, it’s just hard to know if this is the right thing to do, but taking the plunge is the hardest part. The best way to get started is to really just ask some questions that specifically pertain to the organization in question and if a robotic system even makes sense for its needs.
Manufacturing already looks different than it did 5 years ago, let alone 10 or 20, and it’s only going to keep transforming at a rapid, indefinite rate. Like any business endeavor, the competition is global, and it’s aggressive in manufacturing – this isn’t new to anyone, of course. To really succeed, companies need to constantly optimize their processes and maintain vigilance in adopting new growth-accelerating technologies to stay ahead of the game. This is important to keep in perspective when deciding to reach out to a company that specializes in automated manufacturing processes and start entertaining the idea of, ”am I ready to incorporate an automated process into my manufacturing landscape?” Remember the end goal: more precision, speed, repeatability, faster and more efficient production, and reduced waste and costs. A cobot will make that all a reality (if you missed our previous blog posts, the term ‘cobot’ is a portmanteau of ‘collaborative robot’, a robot designed for human interaction… just a heads up!)
Keep it Simple!
First things first: start simple. Do not overcomplicate robotic welding. Get to know the nitty gritty of what this cobot does and how it’s going to help the organization’s operations specifically. A good starter question would be “in a perfect world what does a robotic welding system do for my organization?” Start there. Keep it as simple as possible and really try to break things down to where there’s a solid understanding of how a cobot can specifically cater to the organization’s distinct needs. Not everyone is the same and everyone will need to invest in robots for a wide variety of reasons. To remain concise and specific, we’ll break down some common questions that we receive pertaining to adopting robotic automation for the first time as an example. There’s a lot to learn about robotic welding and unlearn about the stigmas of the impact that robots have on a workspace, so overcomplicating the process is a recipe for failure and unnecessary stress. It’s not a big deal once the details and reasons are broken down to the basics!
Why consider robotic automation at all?
There’s never one correct answer, and the reasons are vast, which is part of why one-on-one consultation can make a huge difference and is probably the easiest choice to make to get started. The reasons for wanting to switch to robotic automation could be the obvious “production volume, capacity, quality, speed/efficiency” issues, how fast parts are or aren’t being produced, planning for future production needs, and/or employee health and safety. Maybe it’s all of the above! Long story short: the “why” will dictate what questions that need to be asked. Then that “why” should be simplified and broken down into key pieces that illuminate what is the most crucial to the organization. When thinking about adopting robotic automation, always keep in mind that robots are designed to simply go to the same spot and do the same thing repetitively. In a case involving welding, are there parts and assemblies accurate enough to be welded with robotics, OR are there ways to account for that inaccuracy with tools (like touch senses, seam tracking, Wire Sense, Edge Detect) to account for those variabilities? That would be one internal question that should be asked by potential vendors to help your organization on its path to discovering the power of automation and cobots.
What processes are wanted versus have to be used?
What’s the day-to-day life at the organization in question? What needs to be cut back on and increased? For automated robotic welding, TIG, MIG, and other processes are available and sometimes one process can be replaced with another to improve output. CAD drawings may need to be provided to the organization you’re thinking of buying robotic welding cells from in order for them to get a good sense of where they can guide your organization in terms of what welding applications and systems will be best for your needs.
Are there concerns about the impact that cobots may have on present staff members?
Do you want to know how it’s going to change your cultural and upstream processes? Do you want to know how it’ll affect your current team at your company? Cobots are deliberately built to cooperate and augment tasks with precision, strength, and efficiency, all the while working side by side with humans in the same workspace. It’s not there to take anything away from any skilled workers, it’s simply a new collaborative tool to improve the welding process, production throughput, and quality. It will require a quick and easy learning curve, but we’ve seen firsthand how accessible and exciting new knowledge can be for welders and their respective organizations.
Does the financial investment hold you back? (FYI we have resources to help with navigating that!)
In the future, cobots may be more accessible and more affordable making the investment risk a little less daunting. But for now, some organizations may not have the capital needed to adopt these processes. For example, one of the primary things we hear about when people are toying with getting our system is cost. Cost tends to be what scares people away, rather than the preconceived implications of what they think adding robots will be for the company culture. That is yet another issue that any automated solutions provider you’re talking to can probably help resolve if there are viable solutions and resources available to make that choice. Everyone is different when it comes to anything in life, but organizations have to invest in a robot only if it truly makes sense for their needs in this case.
In our case, this is part of why we love jumping in to help welders, manufacturers, and other organizations understand the benefits of adopting automated welding processes. Robots are already among us and driving a manufacturing revival that’s being woven into every facet of our lives, and anyone can be a part of that! They’re more widely available to small manufacturers, and more easily programmable with intuitive user interfaces. Even with smaller production volumes and higher product mixes, cobots are quickly programmed to achieve any variety of tasks. Another great thing about cobots is that they’re pretty compact and flexible, which means there’s a reduction in footprint and space usage versus traditional industrial robots which are often enormous cells that are static and difficult to repurpose and/or reprogram.
Curious about what collaborative robotic welding would look like in your organization?
Do you want more information? Contact us today, and we can help answer any pressing questions you may have about the benefits of using automated processes. Reach out for a virtual demo in-person demo, or consult with us about getting sample parts run to show you how THG Automation’s robotic integrated systems, using Fronius Perfect Welding and Universal Robots UR10e, can help your organization for example. Our automated welding solution can help you seal the deal on that competitive edge you’re seeking, and you’ll see instantly gratifying results by integrating cobots into your organization’s regime. Explore our website for more information about the benefits of this investment and get a clearer understanding of what’s going on. Want to read more about our supplier? Check out the Universal Robots website, and be sure to send us any questions you may have about how to attain greater productivity, upgraded quality and decreased costs with THG Automation.