Metal Manufacturers May Consider Collaborative Robots
Feb. 26, 2022
Welder Job Openings and the Emergence of Collaborative Welding Robots
A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Labor states that a record 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September 2021 as job openings remain unchanged at 10.4 million. As a result, while there are many available jobs, many companies are having difficulty finding workers. This is particularly troubling for metal manufacturers looking to keep up with the growing demand for skilled welders.
A major factor at the moment is the lack of welders available to work in the market. No one can find welders to fill job openings. Many companies are offering higher wages, shorter working hours and other measures just to get technicians to their doors.
So robots and collaborative robots, especially collaborative robots, are the right answer for the hundreds of companies struggling to meet customer demand. But what about small and medium-sized manufacturers that have not used robots to handle welding operations in the past? These companies are looking for ease of use and rapid deployment. Larger companies can afford to spend a lot of time creating an efficient and focused system for a single type of part. Smaller companies now need to weld a wide variety of small batch parts.
Many simple manual welding tasks are known to be the culprit of repetitive motion injuries and complete boredom for skilled welders. But put a collaborative robot into a work cell, get it up and running in less than 30 minutes, and it's ready to tackle the job at hand. Not only does a welding collaborative robot help reduce costs, it also allows skilled welders to focus on complex tasks that require their expertise while maintaining weld quality.
Collaborative robots can provide automation solutions for companies of any size, from small stores to large assembly manufacturers. If the job is high-volume production, perhaps automotive parts, welding robots are well suited to produce as many parts as possible in the shortest amount of time. But for low-volume, multi-variety welding applications, small collaborative robots are perfect.
Welding collaborative robots can be set up quickly and can be operated easily by people of any skill level. Small collaborative robotic welders can be programmed using a touch screen tablet while the programmer moves the robot to the desired weld position on the part.
Getting up and running quickly is a very short learning curve indeed. It is an intuitive process and operators can learn to perform it almost immediately. They simply place a flashlight on the part, press a button, and the program is created.
Most collaborative robots are known to have a lightweight and compact design with industrial durability, reliability and minimal maintenance features. This is a major advantage for companies looking to reduce costs and increase productivity.
Collaborative robots are designed to move slower to complete tasks and comply with safety requirements. High volume welding projects require robots to move as fast as possible to make the most parts with the fewest robots. These robots are often equipped with rotating fixtures and automatic clamping arm-end tools that require safety barriers to protect personnel. Collaborative robots work side-by-side with workers without moving fixtures or clamps - in other words, perfect for basic shop welding, but too slow for high-volume production welding.
Collaborative robot mounted on EDM machine
A full-service machine shop, even with a well-trained and skilled team, struggles to meet certain deadlines. They need to produce parts on EDM machines at a fast enough rate.
Employees typically work two shifts a day, five days in a row, for a total of 80 production hours a week. It takes at least a week to complete a job with 500 parts at that rate - and that doesn't include downtime or breaks. To stay competitive and meet the high demands of their customers, they need to go faster than that.
What if they could run at a higher capacity, taking advantage of all available time, unhindered by machine downtime?
24/7 production with collaborative robots
During our extensive research on collaborative robots, we were impressed with the user interface that required no programming and how easy it was to teach collaborative robots tasks. This would be a solution that we could develop ourselves without having to hire external integration. The collaborative robot allowed shop floor employees to complete a job in 3.5 days that would have taken a week to complete. The production time is extended by working "lights out" or around the clock, even when employees are not in the factory. Collaborative robots are saving people a lot of time and money.
Expanding implementation to grow business
People think robots take jobs, but it's actually helped us grow our business, become more competitive, and make better use of our team's talents.
"In the process, we have learned to develop more effective, creative and innovative ways to automate the future of work with collaborative robots.