Mobile manipulation supports lights-out manufacturing

Supplier to the automotive industry automates a dull task to improve productivity and product quality.

By ·

Hirotec America, part of the Hirotec Group of companies that have worldwide sales in excess of $1.6 billion and 27 locations worldwide, provides weld assembly equipment for customers including GM, Ford, Toyota and BMW. After the company developed a corporate mandate to operate as a 24/7 lights-out manufacturer, it deployed a self-driving vehicle coupled with a mobile robot as part of its strategy to achieve the goal.

The company first automated the black oxide process within spare parts production, which involves moving and dipping parts from bucket to bucket in a sequence, with specific time delays between each sequence. Previously, the process was completed manually by whoever happened to be available on the shop floor. Because there was no set operator on the line, parts were prone to error and were often required to re-enter the process, significantly impacting productivity and throughput.

The new self-driving vehicle (OTTO Motors\) is used for automated material movement, while a dual-arm manipulator (Yaskawa Motoman) has been integrated onto the vehicle to pick up and dip parts.

“We started by looking for a platform that could make a dual-arm manipulator into a fully mobile manipulation solution,” says Gary Krus, vice president of business development for Hirotec. “We now have the technology to replicate human labor and are working toward future systems to meet our corporate goals of zero operators for spare parts.”

“We can rely on the solution to do the same thing, exactly the same way, every time,” Peter Mourelatos, R&D project engineer at Hirotec. “We’re seeing much more consistent parts than what we saw with our manual process. We don’t have to run the parts through multiple times anymore, which has improved our productivity. Operators can now remain focused on the valuable tasks in the shop and not be distracted with secondary jobs like black oxide dipping.”

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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