According to recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 53.1 percent of manufacturers anticipate a change in their operations due to the current COVID19 pandemic. You may already be experiencing changes to your business as you adjust to the financial impact, worker health and safety protections, supply chain disruptions, or decreases in new orders. At the same time, shortages of specific products including medical devices and protective equipment and related supplies means some manufacturers have new opportunities to expand production or make new items, if only temporarily.
If you’re a small or medium-sized manufacturer and your throughput, labor force, and component quality are optimal and continuously improving, don’t bother reading any further. But if you have any challenges in these areas, and if you’ve ever wondered how to address them effectively, we may have some ideas for you.
Automation in manufacturing isn’t exactly new but companies are finding new ways to apply it all the time. New and advancing technology including sensors, vision cameras, and collaborative robots (or cobots as they’re often called) expand possibilities from aircraft manufacturing to food processing and beyond. Across the board, flexible automation is a priority, along with worker safety and efficient production.
There are many reasons to consider integrating automation equipment into your welding manufacturing processes. Whether you’re already engaged in welding operations at your facility or expanding your capabilities to include it, welding is especially well-suited to being automated, often through robotics.
By providing a high-quality, consistent product you build brand loyalty and reputation, on which most manufacturers pride themselves. But, quality costs time, money, and staffing resources. What’s more, in many industries (e.g. food and beverage, pharma, automotive/aviation), quality is critical to safety so you can’t afford to make inspection errors.
As a consumer you probably wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it. And you probably wouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes without first trying them on and walking or jogging in them at the store. You need proof a product meets your needs before you make a purchase, and the best way to do that is to test it under real-world conditions. It’s how you’ll discover a sluggish transmission or inadequate arch support or another deal breaker before you buy.
It seems obvious that a robotic arm can’t perform a specific task until an end-of-arm tool (EOAT), sometimes called an end effector, is added. It might seem as simple as buying a tool for the task, but it’s actually a complex decision with several interconnected factors to consider. These are the top five:
If you’re like most small to midsize manufacturers investing in automation, you spent time at the very start of your project carefully choosing an automation integrator. That’s the best time to identify companies that are not a good fit in terms of budget, experience or specialization, even personality clashes or things outside everyone’s control like schedules that just won’t mesh. And as a result, hopefully your final choice will deliver a custom machine for you as planned. But what if things start to change once the project is underway?
If you’re like most small to medium sized manufacturers, you spent, or plan to spend, a large amount of time and careful consideration choosing an automation integrator. Don’t neglect putting the same degree of thought into appointing a team from your company who will work with them. After all, you’re making a sizeable investment in a custom machine that your staff will rely on each day, so it makes sense to develop a partnership with the vendor as it’s being created.
Even if you don’t work in the HR world, you’ve probably heard of cross training employees. This method of teaching workers to do more than one job equips them with multiple skill sets and increases their value to their team, allowing them to fill in or provide reinforcement on an as-needed basis. It’s seen in settings as diverse as the corner coffee shop or a municipal public safety department. When employees can perform their own job as well as the key skills for other positions, it adds a level of flexibility that improves response time and productivity. What you might not know is there are similar benefits in applying this approach to automation equipment in manufacturing.