English - Nooteboom Giants on the Road Magazine English - Nr. 6 - 2019 - Page 48

GIANTS ON THE ROAD ■  The welding robot is suspended from a rail-mounted frame which allows easy access to all welds FULLY AUTOMATIC ROBOT FOR THE FIRST TIME CAN THE WELDING ROBOT WELD HIGH STRENGTH STEEL? Raymond: “Yes, this is the first one, but in the coming years several robots will be used in our production. Our welding robot is equipped with two stations. At station 1 the welding of the next component is prepared and at station 2 the welding takes place. The robot is suspended from a rail-mounted frame which allows easy access to all welds. The robot is equipped with a system for changing the welding torches. By changing the torches automatically the wire and position of the torch can be adjusted to suit different materials and applications. All machines are connected to a network so that operators are automatically informed if there is a malfunction.” Raymond: “For some kinds of steel it is important to first heat the material. In order to ensure the steel has the right temperature we are going to install a heating furnace. We can also change the welding wire automatically when we weld components made of high strength steel.” WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE PLANNING? Raymond: “Traditional production companies work with strategic planning, with lead times of at least six to eight weeks. In the coming years Nooteboom will use dynamic planning, enabling us to constantly adjust the production process. In order to take that step we put a few process engineers to work in 2017. We also discussed with the engineers all the possibilities available to us with the new machinery. For some of them it was inspiring to realise the potential of a modern milling machine.” WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE PROCESS? Raymond: “In 2018 we started to put our newly acquired knowledge into practice. Many components went back to the drawing board. The result: they are less complicated to produce, lighter, but often stronger too. We are making excellent progress but after all we are only in the pilot phase for our final process optimisation. The plans for the next steps to take will follow after the evaluation.” 48 WHAT ADVANTAGES OFFERS THE AUTOMATED PRODUCTION TO THE ENGINEERS? Raymond: “With the new software the engineers can see much more during the design process. It’s quite simple to check whether the entire component can actually be made with the robot. We can also design different versions of a component and check the pricing. When the engineer is finished, the software automatically makes a list for the various processing procedures. Previously it was not always clear whether a good-looking design by an engineer could be produced efficiently. This new software still leaves room for creativity, but at the same time checks are made to make sure the design meets the conditions within the production process.” THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT? Raymond: “We are trying out Cobots, which stands for Collaborative Robot. A Cobot is a flexible, smaller robot that can make the work that people do easier and less demanding. With a Cobot the repetitive tasks in the production can be programmed. This physically lightens the workload of the employees. It is easy to programme a Cobot. In most cases you have to show them the work instructions only once. Because a Cobot is much cheaper than a robot it is of interest to include Cobots in the production.”