UR Cobots Deliver Cost Reduction and Stable Production While Freeing Up Workers for More Important Jobs
01 The short story
Established in 1960, Yokota Corporation, in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan, designs and manufactures bearing races, Factory Automation (FA) equipment, machines for assembly, packing and inspections, and machine tools. With orders from customers on the rise, the introduction of a collaborative UR5 robot from Universal Robots led to the establishment of a stable production system delivering a 20% production increase without the need for additional human resources.
02 The challenge
With the increase in orders, Yokota Corporation purchased a new CNC lathe machine, but was unable to secure the necessary employees to tend it due to a lack of available manual labor. Yokota first addressed the labor shortage by adding part-time employees and relocating workers from other departments but that was not productive proved only a temporary solution. The company also considered introducing conventional industrial robots, but gave up on this due to the additional space requirements that traditional robots would need for safety guarding.
Video — Yokota Corporation Japan
03 The solution
Yokota Corporation selected the UR5 cobot for two reasons; safety and versatility. The UR5 is extremely compact and equipped with safety functions that eliminate the need for extra space required to install a safety fence around it. Instead of erecting permanent safety guarding, the company just introduced a fence on wheels. “We perform risk assessments whenever we introduce a new machine,” says Masayuki Otsuka, the head of Yokata’s Kawashima Factory. “The line the UR5 was is introduced in has a narrow passage and the robot may come into contact with people, so the movable fence further enhances safety.
The fact that the cobot can be moved between tasks was also a deciding factor. Another advantage is that the UR robot can be easily positioned using direct teaching. "Since the introduction of our first robot, there were times when I did not understand how to do the programming,” says Hideyuki Kawamura, chief examiner of Yokota’s production division. “However, because there was an online training program called UR Academy, I was able to go forward while learning and did not feel that it was particularly difficult. I think that this robot is the when introducing automation for the first time".
The deployment of the UR5 has reduced the labor costs for two workers and improved productivity by 20% by enabling 24-hour operation with no variation in production numbers. Two workers are now deployed in the more important line of performing final inspection. “We can now devote more resources to more important tasks that only humans can do,” concludes Masayuki Otsuka.
The Universal Robots distributor, Minato Sangyo Co., Ltd., supported the introduction of the UR cobot. "Having Minato Sangyo, a local company that we always use, carry out initial setup and follow-up, ensuring support and provision of maintenance parts after introduction, gave us a sense of security," says Otsuka.
"In the past, one person was in charge of one CNC machine, but since the introduction of the UR robot, it has been possible to achieve automatic operation, so we intend to make it so one person can be in charge of 5 to 6 machines in the future,” says Katsumi Yokota, senior managing director of Yokota Corporation, “Furthermore, since the machining team introduced me to the wonderful features of UR robots, I am now considering introducing them to tend our FA machines in the future."
The UR cobot can be easily positioned using direct teaching.
The UR5 picks up a part
Close up of the endeffector
- Ability to install the cobot in a limited space
- In-house programming of the cobot with no prior robotics experience
- 20% increase in production without increasing human resources
- Space saving
- High versatility
- Easy programming
- Machine tending (loading and unloading of parts in a CNC machine)
Are you ready to automate your business?
Cost-effective, safe and flexible collaborative robots - or cobots- are making automation easier than ever, even for the small and mid-sizes companies.