Automating the production process often involves tradeoffs.
These can include running at lower production speeds or using cobots with lower payload capacities. Making small concessions here or there can enable shops to simplify and standardize their production process, leading to long-term productivity and capacity gains.
In this story, Alexandria Industries struggled with automation – specifically, machine-tending robots. Right before a cell consisting of two CNC machine tools, two conveyors, a camera and a robot anchor went into production, a downturn in the telecommunications industry caused the company to lose the job. So, Alexandria identified an existing repeating job that featured a family of like parts that the cell could be redeployed to produce. The goal was to also work in other jobs on the cell to keep it busy, but this strategy did not work out well. In the end, the company learned that simplification (in addition to standardization) was the true key for automation success. Simplifying the cell by dedicating it to the family of like parts increased its production output. The company has since applied this way of thinking to the design of various robot-tended machining cells.