For many years, the automotive industry was the largest purchaser of robotic welding systems. They competed with global car manufacturers which had lower manufacturing costs due to low wages and government incentives. However, robotic welding systems sales have increased dramatically across many other segments, including trailer and industrial fabrication. Switching to robotic welding fabrication has become more important due to global competition.
• Improve product quality, consistent results
• Consistent weld profiles
• Reduction in parts costs and operational costs
• Better utilization of human resources
• Improve safety and work environment
• Increase manufacturing flexibility and add more parts in-house
• Improve quality of work; less after-work cleanup
• Reduce waste and product failure costs
• Increase parts throughput by 30 percent–65 percent
• Accuracy of data collection and cost analysis
• ROI in 18 months or less
• Increase profits and cash flow
There are many positives to moving welding fabrication from manual welding to robotic welding. Each organizational tier within a company has their own needs, conceptions, pros and cons of implementing robotic systems. Owners and executives are not sure of the true return-on-investment but need to reduce costs to remain profitable and budget for the capital investments.
Shop managers are worried about disruption in productivity and utilization and tradespeople worry that they will become redundant and lose their jobs.
The first step is to gather relevant data such as information on the present fabrication process, costs and weld cycle times. A comparison can be evaluated to determine ROI and efficiency
increase. A good integrator partner will analyze the data, compare it to their system analysis and propose the best cell system and resulting benefits. They will not over-promise as they must guarantee the system will work based on the project scope agreements. It is important that all three levels of the organization are involved in the project and understand the benefits.
Integrating the right system can have many positive effects throughout the organization in addition to ROI, safety and increased productivity. Cost reduction can be achieved by hard and soft expense savings. If it took two or more welders to weld a trailer, the hard cost savings is compared against one operator. You can purchase material and consumables at better pricing. For example, instead of 30 or 40 lbs. wire spools, you can now buy in drums, 200–500 lbs. Additionally, organizations may consider moving from single gas cylinders to PAKS or even liquid tanks with a mixer. These are only a few examples of how trailer manufacturers can reduce costs and benefit from hard and soft savings.
One trailer manufacturer in Utah that chose to switch to robotic welding nearly doubled the output of their standard trailer and was able to start domestically manufacturing a low-cost trailer whose production was based originally in China. Workers that once had to work on their standard high production line could now focus on specials with a higher return, as well as work in a less stressful and safer environment. Employees could also be trained or utilized in other functions without the costly expenses of hiring new employees and training them.
A trailer manufacturer in Texas wanted to significantly increase and streamline production. The problem was finding willing and qualified tradespeople capable of sustaining high production with consistent quality. By slightly changing the design and using robotic welding stations to perform different functions, the company developed a manufacturing line that moved trailer frames through welding stations, paint, final assembly and to shipping. The company was able to increase trailer throughput and profits and could compete with anyone based on their new cost point.
Both these companies and others look to robotics to help with employment issues which includes the difficulty of finding qualified people at competitive wages willing to work in these environments. Before the shift to incorporate robotics, one company was training one to two new hires a month, and most left within three months.
There are different methods to calculate ROI and cost improvements for every company. Below is a simplified cost calculator based on units produced:
Manual MIG welding efficiencies run in the range of 30 to 60 percent due to part size, weld applications, welder skills and shop layout. Robot welding efficiencies can be significantly increased over manual welding by faster arc-on speeds and consistent quality welds. Long welds can be made without interruption and higher speeds can be achieved with flux-cored wires or solid at higher deposition rates. Robots can move over 1,000 mm per/sec in arc-off movement, so it can travel to all welding points faster, which is important as “time is money”.
Researching automation requires a complete understanding of present process and costs from cutting, assembly, welding, cleanup and painting. This will give a data base to build from to determine what robotic system would work best and achievable ROI.
Robotic system costs are determined by a few key factors, and that is why all three tiers of the team should develop the project scope together. This allows input from different departments and focuses on what is needed versus what is wanted. Choose what parts to automate: high volume, low mix or low volume, high mix, concentrate on the 80/20 rule, etc.
Robot System Cost Considerations:
• Part size and weight: 20 ft trailer versus 40 ft trailers
• Welded from one side: two sides or a part needs to be rotated
• Options required: part finder, or seam tracking vision systems
• Production targets: one robot versus multiple
• Welding application: aluminum versus steel
Knowing current costs versus system needs allows the integrator partner to develop the system equipment and options to meet the project scope. A typical proposal will describe the system and equipment proposed, as well as installation and setup costs, training, warranty and technical support costs. Typical delivery, installation, and training from order date range 8–14 weeks for
up to 30 ft. wide systems. To access a Needs Analysis for Robotic Welding Systems, visit www.sumigusa.com.
About the Company
SUMIG USA robotics is uniquely positioned to offer a variety of robotic welding system solutions and services. Sumig provides complete turn-key welding systems, integration and support.
Welding and cutting robotics are Sumig’s focus and are powered by their experienced robotic welding engineers and technical team. SUMIG USA is a family-owned and managed global manufacturer of premium welding equipment and supplies since 1980.
For more information about robotic welding applications, or to request a quote on custom robotic systems, contact SUMIG Robotics at (800)-503-9717, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit SUMIG USA’s website at www.sumigusa.com.