thyssenkrupp Bilstein Addresses Labor Shortage, Expands Production with Fleet of Universal Robots
01THE SHORT STORY
Nine UR10 collaborative robots deployed at the manufacturer’s plant in Hamilton, Ohio, have opened new avenues of growth for the company manufacturing high-tech suspension solutions for the automotive industry. By automating hard-to-staff tasks such as machine tending, assembly, and product inspection, the cobots optimize production and provide a better work environment. This has enabled thyssenkrupp Bilstein’s to expand its business without relying on hiring additional workers in an area with low unemployment. Future rollout plans include an additional 40 UR cobots.
Video- 美国蒂森克鲁普·比尔斯坦（Thyssenkrupp Bilstein）
thyssenkrupp Bilstein was facing an increase in customer demands combined with fast-changing product requirements. The company needed to keep its manufacturing processes lean and flexible and could not grow at the desired rate by simply hiring more people. The manufacturer had also made a commitment to its existing workforce to decrease ergonomically unfavorable tasks.
Aldo Albieri, Operations Manager at thyssenkrupp Bilstein, first discovered the potential of Universal Robots as he visited small family-owned machine shops where manufacturers with little or no robotics experience were automating even complex tasks with cobots. “They didn’t use safety caging and the cobots were placed on wheels and moved between tasks. That was when things really clicked,” says the operation manager, who since then has overseen the implementation of a new UR cobot at Bilstein’s Hamilton location every other month for almost two years.
The cobots were welcomed by operator Quenna Quarles, who used to handle the now automated tasks. “I had a lot of aches and pains in the past, constantly having to physically punch that, move this,” she says. “Now we can flow much better production-wise and my job is easier as I just load the tubes and let the cobots take care of the rest.”
现在，人民和技术之间没有那么大的障碍。” Thyssenkrupp Bilstein的运营经理Aldo Albieri说。“配角与我们的员工共享工作空间，我们的员工可以简单地抓住直觉的教学吊坠并操作柯比特，因为界面看起来更像是iPad，而不是机器人控制器。
Operator E.J. Seck, who used to manually tend a CNC machine and a hole puncher, enjoys his new cobot colleagues that have taken over these tasks. “Before the robots it was crazy, but now my job is much more organized,” he says. “I can take my time and do my quality checks and my production reports. I won’t lose count of how much I ran because I can focus on that more than running around in circles.”
The John Adams cobot picks and places a part followed by a gauge inspection. “Before, we would check two parts every one or two hours to make sure that we were still where we thought we were; but now we have 100 percent inspection,” says Doug McIe, manufacturing engineer at thyssenkrupp Bilstein
Thomas Jefferson (left) and Andrew Jackson cobots work in tandem transitioning newly formed steel tubes from the welding operation to the punching process.
Bilstein’s internal Industry 4.0 group has now deployed nine UR10 cobots, the largest of the UR models with 51-inch range and 22-pound payload. A tenth UR10 is used as a test model for future applications. “We are planning to implement about another forty cobot applications in our organization,” says Albieri, explaining how the company came up with the naming concept for the new cobot colleagues. “We needed a system that could sequentially be applied to forty-five to fifty cobots and decided to have some fun with it by naming them after U.S. presidents,” he says with a smile. The cobot fleet now spans from George Washington to John Tyler.
05COBOTS TEAM UP IN ASSEMBLY APPLICATION
One of the most eye-catching applications at the Hamilton plant features the James Monroe and John Quincy Adams cobots working in tandem assembling thyssenkrupp’s Active Damping System (ADS) dampers. The multi-step cycle starts by Monroe picking up an innertube that it feeds to a punch machine and then places on a transfer fixture where Adams picks it up and loads it into a “marriage station” where it grabs an outer-tube, marries them together, and puts them on the exit chute.
James Madison, Bilstein’s 4th科伯特（Cobot）正在管子的末端进行清洁操作，为焊接做准备，并很快也将执行一项测量任务。
位于比尔斯坦汉密尔顿工厂的售后市场，8thUr 10，马丁·范·布伦（Martin van Buren）进行填充后压接，从购物车中捡起，将其装入机器，并通过将压接的零件固定为相机检查，以确保适当的压接
Bilstein’s most recent cobot deployment. John Tyler, operates in the Final Assembly Area. The UR10 is equipped with a Cognex camera and moves swiftly between inspection points to make sure parts are assembled correctly and that labels are applied and are readable.
06100 PERCENT INSPECTION
Another task now automated is quality inspection, where four cobots do gauge inspection and check the post-fill crimp and final parts assembly. “When we did the gauge inspection before, we would check two parts every one or two hours to make sure we were still where we thought, but now we have 100 percent inspection,” says Doug McIe, Manufacturing Engineer at thyssenkrupp Bilstein. The cobot deployed in the final assembly is equipped with a Cognex camera and moves swiftly between inspection points to make sure that all components are in the right position and that the label is applied correctly and is readable. “Every single part that comes is checked and if it fails, the robot actually rejects it in the process,” explains McIe.
0710-14 MONTHS ROI
Since Bilstein started to bring the cobot automation in-house, the ROI on the UR cobots has improved. “We have projects with both longer and shorter ROIs,” says Albieri. “But our comfort zone is a payback period of about 10-14 months to justify the investment. Cobots are definitely a quicker return of investment than traditional robots.”
释放劳动力发挥了si在其他工作任务gnificant role in delivering the fast ROI. “The UR cobots gave us the opportunity to grow, expand, create more jobs, and move our most valuable resources— our human resources—into new projects, where the know-how was most needed,” says Albieri. “If we relied only on hiring new people, we would never be able to expand three times the size we originally had. The cobots have opened a new avenue of growth for us, while we’ve been able to retain existing workforce. No worker will lose their job to a robot.”
08NO PRIOR ROBOTICS EXPERIENCE
开发COBOT应用程序的工程团队没有任何先前的机器人经验。麦基说：“我们首先要执行简单的选择任务以使球滚动。”“接下来是弄清楚与机器的接口，这要困难得多，但是一旦我们完成了，它就会很快扩散，我们开始在整个工厂中看到应用程序，几乎可以复制。”过程工程师Jordan Osterholt解释了免费的UR Academytraining modules on the UR website was instrumental in the developing phase. “I would do the tour of how to program the robot and walk straight over to our test robot and apply what I learned,” he says.
09TESTING NEW APPLICATIONS WITH UR+ SOFTWARE
演示机器人在车轮上，因此可以简单地将机器侧卷起即可测试任务。MCIE解释说：“我们可以将配盒插入常规的110V插座并立即开始测试。”“借助传统的工业机器人，我们必须首先钻孔并将其固定在地板上。这节省了我们很多时间。”除了部署测试机器人开发新应用程序外，Bilstein还使用RoboDK software,通过UR+平台进行认证，可以通过UR Rebots插入插件。“The software simulations really help us figure out if our cycle time is going to be accurate enough that it’s worth prototyping the tooling and getting it out there,” says McIe. “We can put the effort in on the computer screen, and when we deliver it, it’s almost ready to go.”
The Industry 4.0 team is now working on inverting two UR10 cobots on a UR+ certified7thaxis range extenderfrom Vention, and is planning to continue the fast-paced rollout, introducing a new cobot on the shop floor every other month. “There are just so many opportunities out there,” concludes Albieri. “The sky is the limit.”
- Developed new growth avenues by automating hard-to-staff tasks
- Product quality increase as a result of 100% inspection
- Zero maintenance with no down-time or interruptions of the line
- Employees alleviated from ergonomically unfavorable tasks
- Easy programming
- Best cobot option for speed vs. repeatability
- Tending of CNCs, punch and forming machines, pick-and place, assembly, product inspection
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