The key to implementing automation is to recognize that machine shops don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach to it.
In fact, there are different levels of automation in which a shop can choose to invest. For example, automation sometimes includes sophisticated robotic systems, but other times a bar feeder or quick-change workholding can provide sufficient capacity gains. Shops must identify a starting level of automation and then adjust that level to meet their future needs as they grow in confidence and competence.
In this story, Zelos Zerspanung, a three-person machine shop located in Germany, leveraged quick-change workholding, then a robotic loader and pallet pool, and finally robotic loading of vise-clamped parts to establish an effective process for high-mix/low-volume work. For this to happen, the shop had to identify the level of automation technology that would enable it to efficiently machine a wide range of parts.