4 minute read • published in partnership with KUKA
Insight: Robotic process automation and welding – choosing the right automation partner is critical
A conversation about buying a robot is just the beginning for any manufacturer considering automated processes. Identifying the right automation partner to deliver upon expectations is critical; one who will weave itself into the fabric of the customer during project delivery – strength in depth, high degrees of technical knowledge, customer empathy, and a commitment to delivering high end, proven solutions.
KUKA establish strategic partnerships with integrators that bring in-depth knowledge of applications and specialist skills to the benefit of customers across all manufacturing sectors. Bauromat, provider of automated arc and spot-welding solutions is recognised as one of KUKA’ go to solutions providers in the field of welding, utilising the iconic KUKA robot in several of its welding installations. Most recently Bauromat supported Stafford-based fabrication company Mec-Com, after a failed project install by another integrator left them discouraged and out of pocket.
Bauromat was able to step in and prevent the client from suffering any further loss of revenue, rectify all anomalies and complications, convincing the client of the benefits of robot process automation, through satisfying the original brief. Mec-Com is the latest company to introduce a fully automated robotic welding system, incorporating a KUKA robot, from Bauromat, within its manufacturing processes, and have since become an ambassador of robotics within manufacturing.
Mec-Com’s need for an automation system, like many manufacturers, was a result of increased throughput and a need to meet rising demand.
“Our clients approached us about expanding our welding portfolio and we had discussions about needing to upgrade to the robotic side of our processes”, says Mec-Com Managing Director Richard Bunce.
“We were new to the field of automation; we went through our normal procedure [to select a supplier] but we were not experienced enough to do a proper initial assessment. That’s the truth.”
Unfortunately, through not properly qualifying the original integrator, Mec-Com were delivered an automation system that was not only unfit for purpose, but entirely unusable, nothing more than a white elephant. And, this is a challenge faced by many manufacturers looking for a first step into automation. It can be an incredibly complicated process, full of technological jargon and new technologies. So how do you know exactly what to expect and how can you separate those true expert integrators with those that just claim to be?
“Automation solutions are not about selling a product in a box – anyone can do that,” says Brian Cooney, Managing Director, KUKA Ireland. “Until you walk the site and make a full technical assessment of what the customer is trying to do, you can’t help them, and sending any kind of estimate can be disingenuous.”
Richard continues “Take references. Go and speak to people and seek fair, unbiased advice. Do the research. Do the due diligence, make sure the integrator has experience in the field you are trying to integrate. Research them as a company and see and speak to their customers. That’s what we didn’t do. We didn’t do the due diligence correctly and that caused us a lot of pain”
With over 20 years of automation experience, generally focussing on the field of welding, Bauromat produced a report breaking down the issues with the current ‘system’, as well as proposing a system that would ensure that what Mec-Com needed could be achieved. But the report was worse than Mec-Com had initially considered.
“Unfortunately, what I was told was that it doesn’t work, it’s not just incomplete, but an unsafe system, and it’s extremely unlikely to ever function” says Richard.
The process links to Bauromat’ philosophy of integration from day one. In other words, from the first handshake to project install, Bauromat ensures that the end user understands the process, has visibility of the timeline, and has input and confidence at all stages. This allows a fantastic rapport to be built between supplier and user, making the final product the best it can possibly be.
“The robot element of an automated system represents about 25%; integration, tooling and task-related software represent the other 75% and that’s the integrators’ area,” Bernard Bagley, Head of Robot Sales General Industry, KUKA UK explains. KUKA is a product-based business and our robots are virtually 100% reliable. The wider system can be very diverse and it’s our integrators, like Bauromat, who are best placed to deliver in the application area.”
Richard concludes “We now have a solution, and robotics is a field we can get further involved in. The concept wasn’t wrong, we just picked the wrong partner.”