PEKO is constantly looking for ways to gain efficiency in our manufacturing operations. Our CNC machining department is under constant scrutiny for opportunities for efficiency improvements. We aren't the only ones, as Barbara Schulz discovers in her recent article about using flexible automation for high mix and low volume production machining. This intriguing article highlights Zelos Zerspanung, and yields some very interesting insights and results, as well as leaves us with a few questions.
We all talk about robotics, but our experience tells us that your typical small shop or those with a high mix/low volume can be adverse to such technology. Common rebuttals for pursuing robotics in high mix machine shops are "it will take too long to setup" or "it will be too expensive".
This article identifies such objections:
"Mr. Oreskovic believes some robotic machine-tending solutions can be intimidating to small job shops. This can cause them to delay their transition to automated manufacturing because they think they need to invest in complex, expensive, process-specific systems that rely on highly trained specialists."
Dive deeper and you see how a process is laid out the subject overcame such obstacles, like starting small. We agreed with this take and thought it very wise.
The article explains how this strategy can be implemented in high-wage companies, a theme in which most western companies can sympathize. The discussion on quick-change workholding as a means for improving setups was right on point. Carefully selecting grippers compatible with common work geometries or part families is exactly the kind of smart thinking that many shops could analyze before spending a single dollar on robotics.
Stage two and three of the process laid out in this piece, are Robotic Loading for Pallet Pools and Vice clamped parts. Our gut reaction is that this sounds difficult to optimize, however I agree that by focusing hard on efficiency gains and using creative methodologies, there could be gold in those hills. I applaud the author and the subject both for vetting out the process.
The article closes the loop and informs the reader that such an investment has paid off. As we look to the future, I ask, how can other machine shops use a similar process? What kind of human capital is involved in successful implementation? What's taking so long for high-mix/low volume shops to adopt such a process? What are some process limitations? And lastly, are these systems flexible enough to account for changes in future business demands?
The full article, Small Shop Sees Big Gains from Right-Sized Automation, was published on Modern Machine Shop. Thanks for checking out The PEKO Perspective.