Flexible cobots boost capacity and satisfaction at Swedish machine shop

 

FT-Produktion utilises flexible collaborative robots – cobots – to boost productivity without adding personnel, as well as raising job satisfaction by bringing variation to daily routines.

When Swedish machine shop FT-Produktion started receiving large orders from global leaders such as Volvo, Renault and Scania, it meant pushing their capacity and productivity to the limit. But in a job market where recruiting qualified employees is easier said than done, it takes innovation to increase output capacity.

So, to meet the growing market demand, FT-Produktion turned to specialised robot technology designed to meet the automation needs of small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses.

“We chose a combination of solutions from OnRobot, Universal Robots and EasyRobotics because they are easy to program. The investment in this solution will pay for itself in just nine months. Now we can fill significantly bigger orders,” says Joakim Karlberg, who owns and operates the family-owned machine shop FT-Produktion with his sister.

In 2017, the company renovated much of its machinery, and added a key addition: the introduction of a flexible robot cell comprising a UR5 cobot from Universal Robots, two RG2 robot grippers from OnRobot, and a ProFeeder from EasyRobotics. This effective trio of Danish cobot solutions has now provided automated machine operation at FT-Produktion for more than a year.

With the cobot cell, a run of 150,000 units can be manufactured in less than two months with the robots working up to 16 hours a day, five days a week, resulting in FT-Produktion being able to save 500 hours when manufacturing a series of this size. This means that the sales department can now accommodate orders with much higher volumes and shorter delivery times – without asking employees to work overtime.

“The demand for productivity continues to grow. But relevant manpower is hard to come by these days. Thanks to automation, an operator can keep three or four machines running at once without stress. We try to eliminate monotonous manual tasks by robotising the high volume production runs, giving employees more time to work on smaller runs with greater variation in their tasks,” says Joakim Karlberg.

And indeed, it wasn’t just production capacity that increased with the introduction of the cobots. The Swedish company saw job satisfaction soar as well, as employees started experiencing a less monotonous and more interesting workday.

Take for example Mikael Andersson, a machine technician at FT-Production. He is now also a robot programmer and robot operator after taking a training course based on the Universal Robots Academy concept that includes ongoing follow-up training via free e-learning courses. Mikael also received training in the use of the EasyRobotics ProFeeder and the dual gripper from OnRobot, enabling him to easily and flexibly install, program, operate and reconfigure the overall solution.

“It was actually easier to use robots than I had expected. If you’re standing there all day, feeding the same machine with parts, you can feel it in every joint of your body at the end of the day. Now my job is less monotonous and much more interesting. It’s fun to watch a robot at work! I would like to see more of them here. This cobot solution is so easy to reconfigure that even small production runs are feasible in terms of costs,” says Mikael Andersson.

 

About FT-Produktion

Based in the southern Swedish town of Åseda and founded in 1983, FT-Produktion has a diverse staff of 25 employees with roots in Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Syria and Thailand. Working in tandem with the neighbouring company Profilgruppen, FT-Produktion supplies a wide range of customers, including carmakers, construction companies, and the furniture industry. The company’s metal profiles measure up to 7.5 metres and are used in the manufacturing of balconies, solar panels, electrical fixtures and lorries, and it manufactures 650 different aluminium profiles, while filling 7,000 orders annually, with production runs ranging from five to 150,000 units. FT-Produktion has annual turnover of SEK 19 million.

For more information, go to www.ft-produktion.se