Robotic Automation in the Job Shop

Production in the job shop can be lost in many ways: accidents, machine tool breakdowns, employee shortages, misappropriation of human labor, etc. You may find yourself looking to reduce labor cost, better utilize your machinists, and improve profit margins in your job shop. The number one solution for growing your manufacturing business is automation. You may be losing more production time by having your machinists load and unload machines than you realize. The following reasons show how adding a machine tending robot to your operation can boost productivity, increase profit margins, and improve your manufacturing business.

Reduce Labor Cost

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American workers are reaching their capacity for output, meaning that as shops struggle to find and retain skilled labor, they lose the ability to compete with offshore markets. The more jobs are sent offshore, the lower your profit margins. The easiest way to reduce labor cost is to add automation to your process. A machine tending robot will complement and improve the production capabilities of your machinists, allowing you to breach the output ceiling and maximize profit for your business.

reduce-labor-costMachine tending can prove to be dangerous for your employees in the long run. Repetitive lifting motions leave your workers prone to potential injury. This hurts your employees, your production, and your bottom line. Instead, free them up to focus on more important things, such as process optimization and product quality. By removing them from mundane, repetitive tasks and allowing them to grow professionally, you will see a drastic improvement in production.

ROI for robots is quick to achieve, usually within two years. Machine tending robots can operate 24/7, so lights-out manufacturing can actually be an achievable goal. A robot performs a repetitive task with no breaks, time off, or risk of injury, which will allow your business to thrive, decreasing production cost and increasing your bottom line.

Improve Employee Retention

Due to America’s lack of competitive edge in the manufacturing world, offshoring jobs has become a staple in the US economy. This results in fewer skilled manufacturing workers in today’s labor market. Finding and retaining skilled machinists is proving more and more difficult, so in order to survive, you need a way to offset that deficiency. A machine-tending robot is that solution, whether it's assisting your machinists on the floor or filling a night shift machinist position.

B&B Gear and Machine Co. discovered firsthand the positive impact automating their machine tools has on their production. Kurt Brinson, B&B’s director of manufacturing states,

“It helped us meet on-time delivery and a higher demand from our customers. It also helped reduce the lack of efficiency due to employees calling off or missing work or also just the shortage of employees that we currently have, and it's been phenomenal."

 

A good practice is to consider a robot as an accessory to your machine tools and buy a robot for every new machine tool you purchase. The increase in production will allow your machinists to improve their efficiency over 100% and feel more valued and not overworked since the robots are doing most of the heavy lifting (literally). According to a Modern Machine Shop article, SEW Eurodrive of Lyman, South Carolina has seen a growth in plant production output of 10x with a mere 6% increase in manpower since they installed their first automated cell. This helped to retain skilled labor in times when it was hard to find it and to improve their product costs. While this is an example of a full-blown automation installation, machine tending robots are a much smaller investment that can yield an effective improvement in retention rates and profit.

A common misconception of embracing automation is that you intend to replace and remove your current machinists. From Kurt’s experience, machine tending robots “… aren’t taking jobs away from people. What they’re doing is they’re filling spots that we can’t fill with the current workforce that’s out there.” Over the course of an eight-hour shift, your machinists will tire, increasing the risk of error and decreasing the output rate. A robot can work 24/7 and do the job the same way the entire time. This not only frees up your employees to do more important work but also improves part quality and consistency. If your workers are allowed to spend more time focusing on quality control, process optimization, and operation smoothness, as opposed to feeding machines, equipment maintenance can be done more often, decreasing production downtime.

“[Machine tending robots] aren’t taking jobs away from people. What they’re doing is they’re filling spots that we can’t fill with the current workforce that’s out there.”

Kurt Brinson
B&B Gear and Machine Co.

Increase Profit Margin Per Part

Automation is the key component to staying competitive in the manufacturing industry, and it can be achieved by any size business. Even dipping your toe into automation and only adding machine tending to your processes can have a positive impact on your profit margin. Average cost-per-part can be greatly impacted in the traditional, anti-automation model. You have to factor in dropped or damaged parts, misappropriated man-hours, and accident liability when calculating your average cost-per-part and determining whether your outfit is performing well enough to yield a decent profit margin.

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Robots don’t make mistakes; they don’t drop parts, and they don’t accidentally slam material against the side of the machine. They perform the same task at the same proficiency and at the same speed time and time again, meaning there is no wasted time fixing a mistakes while your machine waits empty. As you find your process resulting in more parts manufactured more accurately in a given time, you increase your profit margin per part while simultaneously decreasing waste in the job shop.

With your machinists freed up to focus on quality control, process optimization, and equipment maintenance, you will notice a distinct decrease in extra time and money usually spent on broken down machines and antiquated processes. They can address flaws and potential liabilities that would otherwise be left unnoticed as they transfer parts from a machine to a shelf.

A Machine Tending Solution That Works

If you’re ready to grow your manufacturing business by dipping your toe in the automation pool, the Load & Go is the solution for you. Its user-friendly interface takes the complexity out of automated machine tending and allows you to handle a variety of parts on a single machine. Free up your machinists by letting the Load & Go tackle the mundane and repetitive tasks without errors caused by manually loading. The Load & Go can provide the equivalent of another shift without having to overwork your machinists; just set it loose and head out for the night.

The Load & Go Lineup

The Load & Go is the right step for reducing labor cost and increasing profit margins in your job shop. If you’re interested to see if one of our machine tending solutions can benefit you, visit our free quote tool to find out which will be the best fit.

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