Is My Company Ready for Automation?
What to consider before selecting an automation integrator for threaded and blind fastening applications.
If your company is considering tool automation to improve quality and productivity, it is important to carefully consider which automation integrator/partner you choose for your threaded and blind automation system. This white paper will explore the various factors that should be taken into account to ensure you are selecting the most qualified automation integrator / partner to meet your specific needs, whether you are purchasing a semi-automated blind or threaded tool system or a full automated blind or threaded fastening system.
Should You Automate
The trend toward automation is accelerating as companies all over the world realize it’s a necessity in order to remain competitive, but is blind and threaded tool automation right for your team and for your application? Deciding whether or not you need to or can automate is important. You can’t assume a bottlenecked manual process will automatically work when automated. Here are some things to consider in determining whether or not your process is suitable for robotic automation:
- What are your assembly bottlenecks?
- What is needed to improve assembly speed.
- More than 1 fastener per application in proximity.
- Is there a consistent process flow in the work environment today?
- What is the cycle time of the current assembly process and the target moving forward?
- Fasteners being installed incorrectly into the application, or not at all.
- Application components themselves being assembled incorrectly.
- Is data needed from the automated system related to the fastener installation
- Ergonomics issues
- Operator fatigue
- Tool weight and potential for operator strain
- Torque reaction
- Application components difficult to handle: E.g. small or large
Health & Safety:
If you can answer yes to these questions, or even if you are unsure, the next step is identifying an external expert in the process – selecting the right integrator.
Selecting an Expert
There are many factors to consider before deciding which automation integrator can best meet your needs. Begin by doing research on companies that are very knowledgeable about the fastening process and include those that also have inside stakeholders with the same expertise. This could include a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI), a weld engineer or someone with a higher level of welding knowledge.
Fastening System Partner
Talk with the company that manufactures your rivet fasteners or threaded fasteners for recommendations on automation applications. In some cases, a system partner, has the expertise AND offers fasteners, handheld power tool options, and automation sub-systems. This level of knowledge and expertise is ideal and can allow you to readily integrate into the full production line.
Tool System Partner
Talk with the company that offers your rivet or threaded tools for recommendations on automation and if they have expertise and capabilities as an automation system provider. Coordinating with the equipment supplier can ensure you are aligned with an automated system supplier that is knowledgeable and capable.
InternetUse the internet to learn as much as possible about the various companies. Review their websites to learn about not only their products and system knowledge and expertise, but also their financial stability and what projects they have done. It’s important to know that the automation integrator you choose will be there to help you in the future.
Trade journals/Industry publicationsResearch what information has been published about the companies. Is it positive? Is their expertise in the fastening process and not just automation? A lot of automation integrators specialize in robotics, but do not necessarily have the fastening process knowledge.
Refine Your Search
Determine their location
Where the automation integrator is located is important in your selection process. Having a company with a local service and support structure and the ability to respond quickly across multiple boundaries is important. If something goes wrong, you want a company that can have someone there the same day to service the system and get it running again.
If you are a global company, or if you are planning to expand internationally, does the automation integrator can service you globally? Knowing that you can go to the same automation integrator to get the same integrated product anywhere in the world offers many advantages. You will have commonality of parts, standardized programming and the ability to have the system serviced by the same company no matter where you are located.
Conduct a site visit or introductory meetingVisit the automation integrator or interview the automation integrator team to see what equipment and systems they have on their floor or have experience integrating? Have they supplied solutions to meet your exact needs? Can they guide you through your fastening automation steps and needs? Ask questions about their business and their expertise to help determine if they have the ability to meet your specific needs. Find out what level of training, onsite support and programming support they provide. Do they have local service and support capabilities? Ask for customer references.
Be sure to talk to their customers/references who have a similar fastening process or application. If they are automating fastening applications similar to what you use? In this case, it doesn’t matter if they are in a different industry. Ask these customers about their experiences with the automation integrator. Are they satisfied with their work, their ability to service their system and the service and support they provided?
Selecting the right automation integrator for your threaded and blind automation system is important to ensure you are working with a company that can not only provide the right level of support for your needs, but is also an expert in your fastening process and provides excellent service, support and training.