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As the global economy continues to struggle, ICS has revealed how the re-engineering of robot systems can help manufacturers reduce costs, create capacity and avoid expenditure on new equipment.

These are difficult times.

For many businesses, the amount of goods demanded from customers is sliding month-on- month and in some cases, there is uncertainty as to whether there will be a requirement for some products at all this time next year.

Add to this, the continual cost-down pressures that are shaving margins to intolerable levels, then the whole picture looks very bleak.

Having said that, new projects will continue to come along which require parts to be manufactured and processes to be undertaken, notwithstanding the fact that there will be transferred production from those businesses that did not quite make it.

We all know that the global economy will eventually recover, but when? It is this uncertainty that makes the re-engineering of existing robot systems the sensible choice for many manufacturers until a brighter future can be confidently forecast.

Whether you are looking to simply lower your manufacturing costs to protect your slender profit margin; create additional capacity for new products; rationalise your production onto fewer robot cells or avoid high capital expenditure on new robotic equipment, re-engineering could be the solution.

Many businesses that use industrial robots are only too aware that their existing robotic systems probably still have a useful working life or there is scope to extract more value out of them.

However, they do not have the internal resources or knowledge to turn that working capital into a project that can deliver genuine cost savings, create additional output capacity or be productive in a different way.

This situation has been addressed many times by the team at ICS Robotics and Automation, which has helped numerous companies win more profitable business by helping to re-engineer their existing automated equipment instead of opting for new facilities.

Moreover, it has undertaken scores of smaller robot engineering projects to improve the overall equipment effectiveness of customers’ existing robotic automation facilities with the sole purpose of helping to lower their manufacturing costs.

To help customers define a project, ICS has separated its re-engineering solutions into three specific offerings; re-use, upgrade or optimise.

Each offering has a clearly defined objective and associated benefits.

ICS offers a free consultation visit to help determine which areas of re-engineering will provide the greatest improvements for each customer.

Re-using existing robotic systems essentially means that it will either be relocated to a new site, reconfigured into a new layout, retooled to run additional products or the manufacturing process will be changed.

The objective of this offering is to save the customer the expense and, in some cases, the significant commercial risk of a high capital procurement of brand new robot automation equipment.

There are other benefits to re-using existing equipment too, beyond the obvious cost saving.

Projects are generally realised in a shorter lead time, the operators and engineers are familiar with the equipment so training time and costs are reduced, and the capability of the equipment is known.

For example, ICS Robotics relocated a twin robot welding cell to a new factory when the business rationalised the number of production sites it owned.

Also, the industrial process of the industrial robots was changed from MIG-welding to TIG-welding.

Moreover, new welding fixtures were designed and installed to manufacture a new product that had been introduced.

The outcome of this project was that the business saved more than GBP60000 in total by not buying new equipment and the project was realised in eight weeks.

Upgrading an existing robot production facility means that process, automation or safety equipment will be replaced by newer, higher specification apparatus or new equipment will be added to enhance performance or flexibility.

The objective of the offering is to deliver genuine short- or medium-term cost savings or to lower the incident risk to employees.

Other common benefits to this programme are less waste due to a reduction of scrap parts generated in the manufacturing process, and the creation of additional production capacity.

For example, ICS Robotics integrated a new vision system into a robot cell that tends a set of CNC lathes.

The objective of the project was to prevent scrap parts from being processed by the CNC lathes and to ensure that only dimensionally correct parts (post-machining) are transferred out of the cell for packing to the customer.

The outcome was that more than 100 hours of wasted machining time each year was averted and parts rejected by the customer fell from 0.9 per cent to virtually zero per cent.

Optimising a facility refers to a series of minor activities targeted at increasing the overall operational effectiveness of an existing robotic system.

The objective of the offering is to improve the equipment performance by reducing Takt time, quality by addressing process issues, and availability by tackling the causes of downtime.

Often, these projects deliver the most significant return on investment and once improvement opportunities have been identified, a small investment in an ICS engineer’s time to uplift the overall operational effectiveness can have a high impact on the profitability of the facility.

Other benefits are often gleaned from this programme, such as the creation of additional capacity and the enhanced experience of the operator.

For example, ICS Robotics made a series of modifications to a robot welding cell by trimming the PLC and robot code to save vital seconds by improving the synchronisation of the facility automation equipment with the robot tasks.

Also, a set of alarm conditions were written into the PLC code to help reduce scrap from being carried forward.

Finally, the weld-set parameters and weld-torch angles were adjusted to improve joint quality.

The outcome of the project was that Takt time was lowered by eight per cent and scrap rates were reduced by 13 per cent, which had a significant impact on the overall operational effectiveness of the cell and more importantly, profitability.

ICS Robotics and Automation

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