Ease of deployment
The enthusiasm in MT Solar had been building prior to the arrival of the cobot, which made for a “very interesting” first morning together, Jordan recalls: “The robot shows up on the truck and of course I’m all excited about it. I walk out of the office and I’ve got employees already cutting shrink wrap off the robot and getting ready to set something up. I was like, 'Hang on! I want to play!' We had production parts running that afternoon,” says Jordan.
The best thing about the system is that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to use it, says MT Solar’s operations manager, Mike Gillin, a certified welder at MT Solar: “I’m a welder by trade, but I didn’t know anything about robots, and I’m not very computer-savvy. Curiosity attracted me to the robot and I was really surprised at how easy it was to figure it out.”
Low barrier to entry
The flexible financing and rent-to-own options offered through Vectis Automation enabled MT Solar to test out the entire system without a large financial commitment at the outset. “This is a system that I can rent or lease for a very short period. I can afford that. If it doesn’t work, I’m not saddled with the thing. It made it really easy for us to get started,” says Jordan. The tangible ROI of the system is clear, since it adds another welder to the team, Jordan adds, which provides “a real clean one-and-a-half, two-year ROI, just on hard number labor savings.” The intangible ROI is “probably even more valuable,” notes Jordan, because the cobot has had “such a far-reaching impact on both customers and employee morale.”
Repeatability, improved quality & competitiveness enhanced
Human welding can accommodate –and introduce-- a lot of variance, says operations manager, Gillin, especially when it comes to monotonous work and relying on the ‘calibrated thumb.’ “We’ve built up to 7,500 small parts over a winter. For an operator to sit and do that; you can tell where they’ve gotten sick of it, and some of those parts end up being scrapped,” says Gillin. The cobot welder now performs that repetitive work.
For owner Jordan, the system offers the repeatability that manufacturers crave and helps MT Solar maintain consistent product quality: “Our customers are always excited when we tell them, ‘Hey, you know, that part was welded on a robot.’ They go to put it on, and it looks exactly the same as the last one and they look high quality,” says Jordan. “I think Universal Robots’ system with Vectis is the best one I’ve run across. It’s wonderful.”
Furthermore, the consistency and flexibility of the system enables MT Solar to compete with large corporations,” says Jordan. “It allows us to combine industrial quality and scalability with the innovation and the nimbleness of a small company, which we think is an extremely powerful combination.”
MT Solar plans to acquire more cobots soon for new tasks such as manipulation of heavy and larger parts, which will also alleviate some of the lifting performed by employees. As operations manager, Gillin puts it: “We’ve got a shop full of people that will come up with ideas just based on their exposure to it.”