04 Jun Automation in Manufacturing. Click to keep reading…
Recently we toured our manufacturer, Clow Stamping Company (www.clowstamping.com), and it was great to see the implementation of robots to their manufacturing floor. They were driven to this investment partly by the efficiency they gained, but mainly by the labor shortage they are seeing in Minnesota, where unemployment is around 3%.
Clow has been using robotic welders for years, and now they are making a substantial investment to identify other areas where they can make use of robotic arms to automate and deploy workers to other jobs in the factory. We saw them using a robotic arm to load a stamping into their CNC Turning Center. Another area where it makes sense to deploy robots is the shearing operation, where robots could load the blanks on the machine to be cut. Clow is also considering if the press brake and piercing stations will gain from automation. I am not sure how many areas may benefit from robots, but it is impressive to hear management’s commitment to automation.
The company that seems to be the biggest supplier of these robotic arms is Universal Robotics. They won out over Boston competitor, Rethink Robotics, which filed for bankruptcy last year. Rethink struggled with software and reliability issues that lead to their downfall. Robotic arms like those that Universal supplies can be used in pick and place, welding, CNC Tending, injection molding, and harsh spray applications.
It has long been talked about using robots in manufacturing. It is nice to see how Clow Stamping is utilizing the technology to make the company leaner and more competitive.–Commentary provided by Chris Dunham, Lupton Associates’ Business Development