How automated welding fulfils business objectives
Why are so many manufacturing businesses considering automated welding? In the wider context of skills shortages, continuing supply chain challenges and the need to reduce costs, automated welding offers businesses a way to increase productivity while maintaining quality.
How can automated welding help a business. With human welders no longer having to perform the same repetitive tasks for long periods of time, welding cobot applications can help reduce production costs, cut waste, improve safety and boost productivity.
Manufacturing companies ultimately live and die by their ability to make parts and products on time and under budget. It’s relatively simple in theory, but changes in the market as well as several ongoing trends are making it increasingly difficult in practice. As a result, businesses are looking for ways to reduce production cycle times and throughput without the need for more workers. For many, automated welding is an investment that can help them meet these business objectives.
Welding is an essential part of the global economy. Every day across the world, businesses rely on it to create safe, durable and high-quality products. From cars to electronics, we all interact with the results of these efforts as part of our personal and professional lives. This makes automated welding a solution that could have huge implications on the ability of these companies to compete in their local and global markets as well as overcome ingrained challenges such as the ongoing shortage of skilled labor.
Industrial, collaborative robots (cobots) are an important option for manufacturing businesses of all sizes to consider. Their smaller footprint and increased versatility make them a great choice for high-mix, low volume operations.
Manufacturers are facing big challenges
For many businesses in the manufacturing sector, welding automation is no longer something nice to have, but a necessity. The industry is under pressure in a number of ways, and businesses are responding by driving process and digital transformation throughout their operations. Just as digital solutions and automations are streamlining workflows in HR and finance functions, applications like collaborative robot welding are doing the same on the production floor.
Increasingly complex global supply chains now represent a risk for many companies. As prices rise and geopolitical factors continue to cause disruption, many businesses are looking to simplify their supply chains or at least gain more visibility over them. Tighter margins as well as a need to drive more sustainable outcomes also mean businesses are looking to reduce waste and lower costs. Adding more pressure to the ability of companies to compete and grow is a global shortage of manufacturing and tech skills. In such a competitive job market, finding the right people is only half the battle – you have to retain the ones you have too.
Is cobot welding the answer?
We think automated welding is a game changer for manufacturers. Cobot welding applications are not only hugely versatile, but they don’t usually require the floorspace or safety considerations other types of robots do.
Here are some of the ways a cobot can help your business grow, cut costs and increase its efficiency.
Wisconsin-based Processed Metal Innovators (PMI) selected the BotX robots due to the fact that they are collaborative robots and you don’t need a large guarding system around them. "They’re very small, easy to use, very easy to teach. It’s a win-win package—it’s the future for doing small welds", said their VP of Operations, Erik Larson.
A safer working environment
Welding can involve extremely high temperatures and molten metal. Subject to a thorough risk assessment, a cobot welding application will usually not require the safety cages that traditional industrial robots do. They can help make your welding processes safer by removing human workers from the potentially dangerous tasks altogether. Both you and your employees will be happy that the risk of acute injury is reduced.
Increased job satisfaction
One of the most interesting aspects of the wave of digital transformation and automation currently washing over manufacturing is the fundamental change it represents. Traditionally, the sector has been defined by long hours spent performing the same physically demanding tasks over and over. Simply put, utilizing collaborative robot welding removes this need and allows your existing workforce to focus on higher-value work, reskilling or redeployment to other parts of the business.
And, if any of your workforce have an interest in learning about automation and robotics, your new cobot provides an excellent tool to help them build their skills. With the right software from our partner OEMs in our UR+ ecosystem and some user training, your team will soon be capable of operating your cobot effectively.
Welding is a highly-skilled role, but even the most experienced human welder is going to make mistakes. With a human holding the torch, some degree of variance in weld quality and waste is an unavoidable reality.
When set up properly, a cobot-based automated welding application will perform the same task with a very high level of accuracy and repeatability for hours on end. This is one of the reasons why a cobot tends to achieve ROI in months rather than years – in fact, one of our customers reached that milestone in less than four months while also seeing a 40% increase in efficiency. Without the need to pay a human worker to do the manual, repetitive and dull welding tasks, production costs should fall over time too.
With a cobot working for as long as you need it too, without the need for breaks, companies can be confident that welding tasks are being completed at a faster rate and with less waste than before. This requires the right set up and process design to ensure there is no deviation during welding, which can lead to inconsistencies. A range of touch settings, seam tracking or optical tracking software solutions are available through UR+ to help this doesn’t happen.
Not only does automated welding reduce the amount of people needed to run a manufacturing cell, but they can scale up and down effectively with demand. The fact that a cobot welding application gives you the choice to do this is a huge benefit for businesses.
There is no time like the present
Automated welding could have a positive impact on a huge number of businesses around the world. Choosing a welding cobot rather than a traditional industrial robot can enable you to hit the ground running too.
Typically, they do not require any additional safety infrastructure, and with a relatively small amount of training even someone with next to no automation experience can have your cobot welding arm up and running fast. The team at Universal Robots is always on hand to help too, so get in touch to discuss your next steps.