When Mr. Kano visited a factory in Germany, he was impressed by the UR cobots placed in various spots of the production lines and decided to introduce Universal Robots at NIPPON ZETTOC.
Since the company’s factory needs to produce small quantities of various types of products using a single production line, it is important that the cobot’s end-effector can be changed depending on the product type. Producing the end-effector in-house enabled the company to easisly change between product types.
As a result, the inner-box packing line, which used to require two people, now has one person and four UR5 cobots, enabling NIPPON to keep the production line running while workers take breaks. Installing the UR5s also sped up production, resulting in a 30 percent increase in the number of products packaged per hour. The outer-box packing line, which used to require a person tending it, is now fully automated by a UR5. The operators of these lines are now doing different, more value-added tasks such as material supply and process inspection.
Mr. Hirotaka Sugawara, Engineer of Production Technology Department says: “Safety is also taken into consideration. By using a hollow design and intentionally decreasing the strength, the robot hand is designed to when colliding with a person.”
Considering these operation and safety parameters, it took approximately 3 months to develop the whole production system. One month for design, one month for assembly and installation, and one month for programming. “It took time as it was the first time, but we should be able to do this quicker next time,”Mr. Sugawara says.
The programming training was provided by the authorized distributor Inaba Denki Sangyo Co., Ltd. "In addition to receiving thorough training sessions, we have also been able to learn a lot from plant tours at other companies,” says Mr.Sugawara, adding that NIPPON is aiming to increase the number of in-house employees capable of handling cobots in the future.
NIPPON expects the return on investment to be approximately 2 years. “In our industry, it normally takes 3 years, but as we can save money by in-house programming, we can achieve our ROI in shorter period,” says Mr.Kano, concluding:.“If we just purchase the equipment and have an integrator put everything together, it doesn’t feel like our equipment. However, by building the application ourselves this time, from design to assembly, we feel like this is our equipment and that's the most significant benefit.”