Hwa-Hsia Glass Co. Ltd.
Craftsmanship Meets Cobots: Taiwan’s Largest Glass Manufacturer Enhances Manpower Efficiency by 25%
01 The Short story
Hwa-Hsia Glass Co., Ltd. has introduced 11 UR collaborative robots (cobots) for its Hsinchu plant as a part of their digital transformation strategy. To do this, they leveraged six UR10s and one UR5 in the packaging line, two UR10s in the production of ‘cat’s eyes’ (reflective objects on road studs) ) , and two UR5s in the innovative manufacturing lab. Requiring no changes to existing floor space and other resources, UR cobots save Hwa-Hsia Glass six times the space compared to traditional industrial robots, effectively freeing up 25% of the manpower. The cobots allow operators to focus on skilled tasks, diminish their fatigue from repetitive work, and improve overall productivity and quality. The introduction of UR cobots further reduced revenue loss due to customer complaints by USD54K-72K annually and helped achieve the company’s vision of becoming an employee-friendly workplace.
- Talent shortage due to low birth rate
- Unstable capacity and quality under manual operation
- Increasing floor space efficiency
- Flexible staffing
- Consistent capacity and quality
- Manufacturing glass in high heat work environment
- Using grippers to package finished product into carton
02 The Business Transformation
Established in 1925, Hwa-Hsia Glass is the largest glass manufacturer in Taiwan with glass products including bottles for food, wine, and other beverages. Recent trends in Taiwan have created challenges for manufacturers like Hwa-Hsia. There is a low birth rate, leading to an aging population and not enough young workers to replace workers who are retiring. Further, traditional production lines have been unable to fulfill increasingly popular custom orders at a high mix/low volume. This has prompted Hwa-Hsia Glass to pursue digital transformation and automation since 2013, to stay competitive in the market. The new strategy also aimed to overturn the public’s stereotypical view of the traditional glass factory where the working environment was usually dark, noisy and dangerous.
In the glassmaking process, the steps of melting and refining are conducted in high heat. Therefore, it is imperative to account for equipment’s durability in high heat for extended periods of time, as well as choosing an automation solution that delivers consistency. In addition, the equipment needs to adapt to various deployments accordingly. The above factors hindered Hwa-Hsia Glass’ effort to optimize its factory process.
03 The Solution
When surveying the automation solution, Hwa-Hsia Glass learned that UR cobots are being deployed in various industries worldwide with features of flexibility, lightness, and safety perfect for smart manufacturing. Therefore, Hwa-Hsia Glass implemented UR cobots into the packaging and cat’s-eye production lines, successfully solved several problems and achieved the following outcomes.
Minimized Customer Complaints
With high precision, these seven cobots pick the glass bottles and place them in cartons after inspection. Revenue loss due to manual errors, which usually occur due to the wrong product being packed, was effectively reduced by USD 54K-72K annually.
Improved Limited Floor Space
The built-in safety mechanism of UR cobots allows human workers to work alongside the cobots in close proximity. Based on a risk assessment, UR cobots can operate unbounded by fencing or enclosure and therefore save Hwa-Hsia Glass six times the floor space compared to traditional industrial robotic arms.
Ensure Worker Safety
Two UR cobots pick and place higher-temperature pressed glass in the annealing lehr (a process of slowly cooling glass) with consistency in high heat.
The introduction of UR cobots improved the packaging process to 300 cartons per hour, and reduced revenue loss due to human errors by USD 54K-72K.
From left to right, Yan-zheng Zhu, Lead of QA Department at Hwa-Hsia Glass, Winston Liao, Executive Vice president at Hwa-Hsia Glass, and Guang-lin Hwang, Team Leader of Equipment Division of Hwa-Hsia Glass.
With UR cobot’s simple and intuitive interface, it only took about a week for operators to adapt to working with a cobot including starting, trouble shooting and easily programming the cobot.
With UR cobot’s simple and intuitive interface, it only took Hwa-Hsia Glass 2-3 months to officially launch the cobots in its manufacturing operation. It took about a week for operators to adapt to working with a cobot. By implementing cobots, Hwa-Hsia Glass was able to reduce the manpower needed by 25% - since one shift now only requires 1.5 people instead of two in its three-shift schedule. The extra manpower was allotted to other skilled tasks to improve efficiency for a safer and more friendly workplace.
Thanks to initiatives like cobot deployment, Hwa-Hsia Glass is realizing significant benefits of digital transformation. With improvements to business results, operational efficiency, and employee satisfaction, they look to the future to continue the momentum and growth.
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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.