Universal Robots Delivers Half a Million Dollars in Annual Savings at Coty Cosmetics
01 the short story
Coty is a worldwide cosmetics company behind such well-known brands as Sally Hansen, Rimmel and CoverGirl. At the company’s factory in Maryland, eight Universal Robots on four mobile carts now automate the picking and packing of products at the powder presses. The mobile solution delivers $500,000 in annual savings while improving both quality inspection and the employee work environment.
02 the challenge
For Paul Baublitz, project manager at Coty Cosmetics, the issue was clear: “We currently have twelve presses, and the challenge with automation is always how do you—in a cost-effective manner—automate such a large operation?” Baublitz had multiple reasons for automating, including meeting the company’s drive for increased efficiency as well as addressing the repetitive nature of the task, which was not ergonomically friendly for human operators. This was a task that Coty had previously looked into automating, but found that the technology available at the time wasn’t up to the complexity of the application.
Baublitz brought the problem to Chris Sydorko, owner of the integration firm Sydorko Automation, who says, “The challenge for me was to try to determine how I could build a robotic system that was mobile enough to meet their automation needs while still being cost-effective enough to meet their budgetary needs.” Traditional industrial robots are not easily moved around due to safety regulations, which meant that Coty would have to permanently place a robot at each of the 12 presses. This was not within budget.
Video — UR3e, UR5e, Coty Cosmetics, USA
03 the solution
Instead, Sydorko looked to collaborative automation. “The Universal Robots seemed a great platform,” he says. “They’re lightweight, they’re easy to use, they’re low voltage, and certainly could work together in the same environment as individuals, so we decided to give the Universal Robots a shot.”
The application involves picking up “godets”—metal pans containing powder cosmetics products—and placing them on trays packaged in boxes and sent to a different department for final processing. In the presses, powder is pushed into the godets, which then travel under a 3D profiler head from Cognex for surface inspection and to measure the volume of powder in the pan. If the godets pass inspection, a UR3 cobot picks them up in groups of two or four, depending on the product, and places them on a tray. When the tray is full, a UR5 cobot picks the tray up and moves it to one of five case locations and places the tray in the case. The UR5 cobot then moves to where empty trays are stored, picks up a tray and places it back in the tray staging area, waiting for the next one to drop in front of the UR3 while it’s loading.
Mobile cobots support fast changeovers for wide product mix
The cobot-based carts currently run up to ten different product “recipes” for different godet shapes, which can range from round to square or rectangular, as well as various thicknesses and weights, and which can come out of the presses one or two at a time. The carts are designed for up to 20 product “recipes.”
Set-up time and changeovers were key challenges to overcome in the application. With Universal Robots, Coty was able to mount a UR3 and UR5 cobot on each of four mobile carts that can be rolled from one press to another. Baublitz says, “It is much more cost-effective than having twelve different stations with robots at them. It made a project go from not being possible from a financial standpoint to being possible. Having them mobile was critical to making the project go forward.” Set-up time for the mobile cobots is typically just 15 to 30 minutes to unplug, move and set up the cobots at a new press.
Fast ROI, improved work environment and improved quality
For this collaborative automation project, Coty is projected to save half a million dollars annually going forward. That’s a significant return on investment, but Coty has seen other benefits as well.
The area where the robots work is dusty and noisy, with heavy vibration from the large presses. Now that the robots are working next to these sources, Coty is able to move employees farther away from this environment and redeploy them to less repetitive and more interesting tasks. Baublitz explains, “Once this project is fully completed and running three shifts, five days a week, with four carts, there are going to be thirteen fewer employees working in that area. That’s a significant change for the organization, with a lot of efficiency improvements, and the team’s very excited about that.”
Baublitz also points to new quality initiatives that the Cognex inspection system adds to the automated work cells. Previously, this was one of many tasks that operators performed. “Now there’s a computer doing all of that work,” Baublitz explains. “If you see something that needs to be improved, you can immediately react.”
After the UR5 cobot places a full tray in a box, it moves to where empty trays are stored, picks up a new tray and places it back in the tray staging area, waiting for the next one to drop in front of the UR3 while it’s loading.
In order to meet required production rates, Coty needed to push the robots’ speed and force outside of the collaborative range. As extra safety precaution lightweight plexiglass guarding and light curtains were added without inhibiting the carts’ mobility. If a worker opens a door or reaches through an active area, the robots immediately drop into a safe collaborative speed and resumes maxim once the door is closed or worker moves out of light curtain.
Being able to place the cobots on four mobile carts that are moved around between 12 presses made the automation project at Coty Cosmetics possible. Had the company opted to go with traditional industrial robots, they would have needed a fixed robot at each of the 12 presses which was not within budget. Two of the carts support presses that produce high-volume products, so will rarely move. The other two carts move every day, typically once every three shifts.
Each “godet” is inspected by the 3D Cognex camera and is either a “pass” or a “fail”, if it’s a fail, the UR3 cobot places the godet in a reject bin.
UR3 cobot picks up “godets”, metal pans with pressed powder, in groups of two or four, depending on the product, and places them on a tray. When the tray is full, a UR5 cobot picks the tray up and moves it to one of five case locations and places the tray in the case.
In the presses, powder is pushed into the godets, which then travel under a 3D profiler head from Cognex for surface inspection and to measure the volume of powder in the pan, if the godet passes inspection, it is picked up by the UR3.
Safety despite high production speeds
Collaborative robots are designed for safe operation alongside human workers. However, in order to meet required production rates, Coty needed to push the envelope of the robots’ speed and force outside of the collaborative range. To protect operators, Sydorko added lightweight plexiglass guarding and light curtains. These don’t inhibit the carts’ mobility, but if a worker opens a door or reaches through an active area, the robots immediately drop into a safe collaborative speed. Once the worker shuts the door or moves out of the light curtain, the robots resume their maximum speed.
“You can go as fast as you need to and make sure you can keep up production rates, but you can also be collaborative if that makes more sense. It’s the best of both worlds,” says Sydorko, who often gets asked why he chose chose Universal Robots rather than a high-speed traditional industrial robot for the Coty application. One of the key reasons is that traditional robots don’t run off a low-power source. “Right now, we’re running the carts off 110 volts,” he says. “We would have to use 240 or 480 volts to run a traditional industrial robot. It gets challenging when you want to move carts and puts operators at higher risk.” The weight of a traditional high-speed robot was also a factor as well as the size of the control platforms.
Collaborative integration process leads to success
Now that the cobot-based system is set up, however, the Coty team is able to manage it internally. “If there’s ever any troubleshooting that’s needed, the integrator that we worked with is always a phone call away,” says Baublitz. “But at this point, we’ve been running with the carts for months and we’re comfortable enough that we can troubleshoot 99 percent of the issues in-house.”
Now that the mobile carts are set up, the Coty team is able to manage the cobot-system internally. “If there’s ever any troubleshooting that’s needed, the integrator is always a phone call away,” says Paul Baublitz, project manager at Coty Cosmetics. “But at this point, we’ve been running with the carts for months and we’re comfortable enough that we can troubleshoot 99 percent of the issues in-house.”
One of the reasons Coty Cosmetics chose Universal Robots is the cobots’ ability to plug directly into a 110V outlet. “We would have to use 240 or 480 volts to run a traditional industrial robot,” says integrator Chris Sydorko. “It gets challenging when you want to move carts and it puts operators at higher risk.”
Employees at Coty Cosmetics work within the same work envelope as the UR cobots.
The application incorporates Allen Bradley PLCs which use Ethernet IP to communicate with the UR3 and UR5 controllers, as well as with the Cognex 3D vision system. “That gives us a really large data stream to be able to pool any and all bits of information that we want,” says integratot Chris Sydorko. Coty can manage recipe selection (the different types of “godets”) from a central HMI that can feed data to the two robot controllers as well as the camera, which can also return inspection data over Ethernet.
While some workers at Coty Cosmetics were initially fearful of robots taking over part of their jobs, they are now very appreciative of their new cobot colleagues as they take over several tedious tasks such as doing the quality inspection of each godet. “Now there’s a computer doing all of that work,” says Paul Baublitz, project manager at Coty Cosmetics. “If you see something that needs to be improved, you can immediately react.”
- Global cost competitiveness secured
- Ability to meet production rates outside collaborative speed while still providing safe work envelope for employees
- High-value staff freed up to focus on more skilled tasks
- Ergonomically unfavorable jobs now automated
- Ability to automate high mix/low volume production
- Savings of $500,000 annually
- 13 employees now freed up for more value-adding tasks
- Quality inspection improved
- Collaborative and safe
- Easy trouble shooting and low maintenance
- Ability to easily interface with peripherals such as sensors, 3D cameras and PLCs
- “Godets” – metal pans with pressed powder – picked off moving conveyor and placed on trays Trays placed in boxes
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Cost-effective, safe and flexible collaborative robots - or cobots- are making automation easier than ever, even for the small and mid-sized companies.