Komarov Artem explained that before a welding cell can be created on the shop floor, management needs to involve the production team in the project and identify a leader who will ensure successful implementation. The only way to increase production and stay competitive in the face of innovation is to strategically automate the manufacturing or welding process. However, this key update may not be as simple as it seems.
For a company to truly benefit from the efficiency gains associated with moving to automated operations, the team needs to be fully informed about their role in the process.
Successful integration of automated processes requires a change in our understanding of automation. For example, robots are not just new tools, they are new ways of working. For automation to have cost-effective benefits, the entire shop floor must be adapted to support the changes that come with adding a robot to an existing workflow.
Step 1: Prepare the workplace for a performance culture.
It is essential to inform everyone about the changes that will come with the transition to automation.
Your employees need to know that the transition to automation is likely to bring changes and development challenges, but that the benefits associated with these changes will increase efficiency and keep the company profitable.
If you are considering automation, you should also consider how this change in the way you work will affect your existing employees on your shop floor. The most important thing to watch out for suspicious employees is that automated welding processes still require human labor. In fact, the best scenario for the success of automatic welding is an operator who can take over the process, provide detailed weld compression, and have the confidence and competence to work with the latest digital technologies.
If your vision for an automated process includes faster production speeds and lower costs from day one, you first need to fully understand all of the factors driving your costs. Most clients only focus on speed rather than weld quality or safety, which we find are often bigger determinants of hidden costs that affect their ROI calculations.
When it comes to weld quality, you need to make sure that your process produces a weld of the correct size and patency, and that it has the correct shape. In addition, there must be no weld spatter, undercuts, distortion, or fire.
From a safety point of view, you need to consider smoke removal. Also make sure your safety regulations are up to date to avoid heat and arc related injury. It is also necessary to review the ergonomic risks associated with the handling of materials and other production activities.
Automation can often ensure consistent weld quality and eliminate certain safety hazards due to workers simply not being involved in the process. By paying attention to the quality and safety of welding, you can be sure that the speed of production will increase.
Step 2. Identify a person who can align welding technology with digital technology.
Look at the shop. Do you see anyone with a new cell phone or is someone talking about playing video games with their friends? Does anyone rant about a new navigation system or technical features in your car? Even if the people involved in these conversations have never operated a robot, they may be the best option for controlling an automated welding system.
To find the strongest people in your team who can become automation experts in your company, look for those who have a good combination of these characteristics, skills, and qualities:
Understand the mechanics of welding. Most of the questions or concerns that a company has about product quality are usually due to welding problems. Having an experienced welder on site helps the process move more smoothly.
Open to learning how to use new technologies. A potential operations leader who is willing to learn is an indicator of greater flexibility in the face of constant innovation.
Competent computer user. Existing computer skills are a solid foundation for robot learning. Ability to adapt to new processes and ways of working. Have you noticed anyone who was eager to implement new processes both at work and outside of it? This quality alone will ensure a successful job as an automated welding chamber operator.
A strong leader who can handle change. The specialist leading the operation will benefit from rapid learning and the ability to identify potential long-term problems and solutions.
Who supports other workers during the transition period. Part of the leader’s role is to support their colleagues during the transition to automation.
Courageous enough to take on the toughest challenges and tackle the challenges posed by new technologies. The person in charge of the automated welding process must have the confidence to carry out the trial and error that will be required as his company solves the problems inherent in every new technology implementation.
If you don’t have someone on your team willing to be the “guide” to this type of automation project, you might consider hiring someone or delay the transition to automation by training existing employees in the skills and programs needed to make the project a success.
Step 3. Simplify training for those who work directly with the robotic welding cell.
We usually see an engineer, supervisor or middle manager take over the process, but it is important to have highly skilled welders on the team as they are critical to successfully managing and adapting to the change process. Unfortunately, welders are not given enough time or financial incentives to do additional work or additional training beyond their normal duties.
The transition to automation can be a time-consuming process, requiring certain initial employees (competent enough to be trained as project leaders) to lead the mission. They are also useful for promoting the desire for automation with your colleagues, which can convince others to show an interest in automation as a career path.
Deciding which projects, you want to start with is also key to creating the right atmosphere for your team. Many clients have commented that they wish they could do smaller, simpler jobs as their first automation project to flatten the learning curve. Treat assembly as the first target of automation rather than more complex assemblies as your equipment is just starting to automate.
A good distribution partner who has experience with various automation cell configurations can provide vital support during this transition. A distributor with a strong service team can support you during the induction process and provide technical support throughout the automation life cycle, said Komarov Artem.