UR10 cobots address aging workforce and reduces worker costs

Nissan Motor Company

In short

With an aging workforce and a need to cut extra spending on relief workers due to inefficient production processes, Nissan motor company implemented Universal Robots’ UR10 cobot systems.

As one of the most recognisable car brands in the world, Nissan Motor Company was facing a problem. In addition to a need for more streamlined production processes at its Yokohama large-scale plant, it was facing up to the reality of an aging workforce and loss of vital skills.

The business transformation

Manufacturing engines and parts for electric and hybrid cars, Nissan’s 3,200 employees are responsible for processing and assembling machine parts, with close links between the production line and engineering departments. This integrated approach to manufacturing makes it all the more important to ensure employees are supported and given the right amount of experience.

One issue which was causing problems in this area for the plant was the level of ‘takt time’ – which relates to the cycle time of a specific process – and how this would sometimes overrun, making it necessary to use relief workers, which in turn meant a greater labor and personnel cost for Nissan.

Nissan Motor Company

Industry Automotive and Subcontractors
Country Asia
Number of Employees 1000+
Cobots used UR10
Video — UR10 robot, Nissan, Japan

The solution

“The requirements meant the main body of robot should be light and easy to move, compatible with a 100V outlet, and usable without a safety fence,” Mr Fujii explained.

Two lines of Universal Robots’ UR10 robot arms were deployed at the Yokohama plant to offer more time to human workers for obtaining valuable line experience elsewhere, as well as eliminating takt time overruns. The robots were initially introduced to loosen bolts on cylinder head cam brackets. According to Mr Fujii of the Powertrain Production Engineering Division, this task needed a specific kind of robot.

Later, the UR10 cobots were employed as part of the process for installing engine block intake manifolds, which meant they would need to work in collaboration with real human workers. This would mean movement across conveyor belts without safety fences, as well as carrying hefty intake manifold components that weighed between 4kg and 6kg when including the robot hands.

Before selecting the robots, we made a comparison with other companies’ robots, but in the end the UR10 was selected because of its cost advantages, as well as its weight capacity. In the ZD process, it was advantageous to be able to readily move using casters. In the process installing the intake manifolds, only the UR10 had the payload of 10kg among the other products we looked at.

Before selecting the robots, we made a comparison with other companies’ robots, but in the end the UR10 was selected because of its cost advantages, as well as its weight capacity.

Mr Nakamura, Expert Headman for the plant’s Engine Section
Operating within a week

Operating within a week

With a range of safety and features considered, the UR10 robots were installed efficiently and programmed, with operatives trained and basic operations underway in about a week. Programs were adjusted minutely after the installation, and have been operating steadily since, solving the company’s takt overrun problem and reducing the amount of heavy lifting required for staff. “We needed a robot large enough to bear such weight,” said Mr Nakamura, Expert Headman for the plant’s Engine Section.

Adaptable integration

Adaptable integration

“By being able to move the UR Robot to any place we see takt time overruns,” concluded Subsection Chief of Engine Section Mr Onishi, “we are thinking about creating production equipment capable of flexibly responding to the situation. We will further deepen the function of a global pilot plant by integrating the strong on-site and engineering capabilities. Therefore, we will certainly increase the number of robots going forward.”

Automation challenges solved:

  • Reducing workloads for staff.
  • Increasing efficiency.
  • Improving performance to help cut unnecessary extra costs.

Key value drivers:

  • Easy programming
  • Fast set-up
  • Collaborative and safe
  • Flexible deployment

Tasks solved by collaborative robots:

  • Packaging and palletizing
  • Labelling

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