Click image to enlarge

By Mary Scianna

ABC Metal Fabricators (a fictitious company) set up shop last year with the intention of automating down the road when business picked up. The company purchased a laser cutting machine and hired an operator to load and unload the system.

A few months later the shop was so busy the company set up another shift and hired another operator. Now the shop has two eight-hour shifts running 16 hours a day and business continues to grow. What to do?

“This shop has three choices,” says Keith Leuthold, a 45-year automation veteran in the fabricating industry and the current  director of inside sales for Mazak Optonics, Elgin, IL. “It can add a third shift. Companies that have done that though often have to cut back on hours during slow times and this third shift is weak in productivity. Third shifts often don’t work for many companies. Second choice is to continue running two shifts and buy another machine. But then you have to hire another operator. Third option is to add automation, which is either half or 25 per cent of the cost of another laser and now they can run a third shift unattended and they’re getting more hours out of the existing machines. Essentially they’re getting 88 hours more per week without adding more manpower and without having to buy another machine; that’s a huge benefit.”

Many people don’t often consider another important reason for automating: worker safety, says TRUMPF’s Lukas Baechler, product manager for automation.

“One other factor that is often forgotten is the safety of moving the sheets around in the shop. In many cases, there are stacks of material that are being moved around several times a day. It is labour-intensive to handle those goods; safety and material quality (damage) are jeopardized from the daily handling. If the material is stored in a system, it only gets moved as the machine is demanding the material via a job. The material is then transferred to the end user automatically, scratch and dent-free.”

Ten Challenges in Automation
If you’re considering automation on your fabricating line, here are the top factors automation must address according to Bill Bossard, president, Salvagnini, Hamilton, OH.

  1. Fit into the plant and fit within the scheme of the shop flow.
  2. Be sized correctly.
  3. Be affordable and allow a company to achieve a return on investment.
  4. Be useable.
  5. Be easy to maintain.
  6. Reduce costs.
  7. Improve shop throughput.
  8. Increase velocity of parts moving between work centres.
  9. Handle variability in manufacturing to address the growing movement to customization.
  10. Sustainable. Automation won’t work for short-term contracts; it must be something that will be used over years of operation.

To find out more about Fab Shop Remake click here.




SigmaNEST advances CAD/CAM; expands connected shop

CAMBRIO, a provider of CAD/CAM solutions for the fabrication industry has released version 22 of its SigmaNEST software suite.

CMMs: Choosing the right one for your shop

by Shop MT staff

Quality is critical in manufacturing and coordinate measuring machines play an important role in ensuring that quality.

Tube measurement software with unique license

Hexagon's much-anticipated update to tube design, analysis and production platform TubeShaper delivers important new functionalities to customers in tube and pipe manufacturing. 

Cutting with Fiber Lasers

Most suppliers now offer fiber laser cutting technology, but are fabricators in Canada using it?

by Mary Scianna

Fiber laser cutting technology made a big splash back in 2010 when this editor first wrote about the technology.

World's largest all-electric pipe bending machine

Norwegian offshore and maritime services company has installed what is considered the world's largest all-electric pipe bending machine, capable of generation 660,000 Nm of continous torque and bending of thick-walled carbon steel pipes up to 273 mm (10 in.) in diameter.

Robotic bending in action

The HG 1303 Rm from Amada America was engineered to provide consistent, high quality bending operations while eliminating time intensive, manual handling of medium to long sized parts.

EMO Milano 2015 Preview: 400+ exhibitors and counting, additive manufacturing

EMO is the world's largest metalworking trade show and in 2015, it takes place in Milano, Italy, October 5-10.

Manufacturing outlook 2016

by Mary Scianna

Businesses remain positive despite economic uncertainty

Washers eliminate oil and contamination on metal parts

Automatic Feed Co.’s coil-fed high-pressure hot water washers eliminate oil and contamination on aluminum and various metals that can cause visible part defects during the stamping process. 

ESAB restructures North American operations

ESAB Welding & Cutting Products is restructuring its operations and will integrate ESAB and Victor regional operations and facilities. The restructuring will be deployed in phases throughout this year and 2016.

Hexagon acquires Vero CAM software business

Hexagon AB has acquired CAM software producer Vero Software.

Canada’s Aerospace Industry: Poised for Liftoff

by Noelle Stapinsky

Opportunities abound, but a national strategy and support are paramount if our aerospace industry is to recover from the pandemic and become a global player again

Untapped Talent

by Noelle Stapinsky

Canadian manufacturers need to diversify to answer the need for more skilled workers

Exploring the robotic smart factory at Hannover Fair 2016

The KUKA booth at Hannover Fair 2016 where visitors learned about smart factories, connecting robots and other automation equipment to the cloud, the benefits of machine learning and big data for optimized production, new easier robot programming methods, flexible methods of matrixed production, as well as some new KUKA robots and how it all fits into the 4th industrial revolution - Industry 4.0.

Cleared for Takeoff

As Canada’s aerospace industry starts its path to rebounding, there are opportunities for small and medium-sized shops looking to get in the game

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn