Robotics Notebook: Robotic Cells Keep Ohio Firm Competitive
May 28, 2009
G&W Products (Fairfield, OH) employs 120 workers and produces metal stampings and fabricated metal parts for customers in the material handling, military hardware, retail display, and power-distribution and construction equipment industries. Its processing capabilities include laser cutting, powder coating, and MIG, TIG and spot welding.
A few years ago, the company began installing a battery of robotic welding cells from welding equipment manufacturer Lincoln Electric Co. (Cleveland). Today G&W’s robotic welding capabilities include three System 50HP Dual Headstock robot cells, a System RCT turntable robot cell and a System 40 turntable robot cell. Each cell employs a six-axis robot from Fanuc Robotics America Inc. (Rochester Hills, MI) and includes a pair of fixtures, so that it can be loaded with new work in process at the same time it is executing a weld.
The result: Despite the current economic downturn, G&W has been able to remain both profitable and competitive. Not only that, the company is well positioned to grow all the faster when the economy gets back on its feet again.
“There is no question robotic integration has allowed G&W to be more competitive in the marketplace,” says company CEO Gary Johns. “It has allowed us to swiftly complete medium- to large-volume welding work. It also has allowed us to realize significant gains in the consistency and quality of overall productivity. Automation and other initiatives have allowed G&W’s business to grow approximately 35 percent over the last three years while maintaining nearly the same number of employees.”
According to Doug Keehn, director of advanced manufacturing, G&W uses its System 50HP units for welding its larger, more complex products and its System 40 turntable cell for smaller, less complicated parts requiring fast delivery times.
For higher-volume jobs involving medium-sized parts, the company uses the System RCT workcell, which features a proprietary, center-mounted positioner that maximizes the robot work envelope by bringing it closer to the workpiece.
“Our robotic line handles MIG welding of aluminum parts, high-tensile-strength steel and weldment geometries that require creative fixturing,” Keehn says. “Once the fixture is proven out and the programming is completed to meet these challenges, the production and quality are quite consistent.”
“The factors driving us to robotic welding are related to cost and capacity,” says G&W vice president of sales Randy Sagraves. “Volume is the most important variable in determining a fit for robotics. With some parts, we make several hundred pieces of a particular item each month, so it makes sense to robotically weld it. This allows us to be cost effective by spreading the cost of the equipment and the fixturing over the cost of the job.”
Sagraves adds that the cells free up operators to perform highly skilled welds and assemblies that can only be done by hand.
Two senior technicians oversee the operation and programming of the cells, and the company’s entire robotics staff has received training at Lincoln’s Electric’s on-site welding school, with senior operators also attending Lincoln Electric’s advanced training program. The team continues to participate in regular internal training sessions on welding and weld inspection. In all, the G&W Products makes more than 20,000 parts on its robotic systems each month.
For more on robotic welding, call 888-935-3878 or visit www.lincolnelectric.com/automated-solutions.
For more on robotics, call 800-iQ ROBOT or visit www.fanucrobotics.com.
For more on robots, including a robots-for-assembly tutorial, visit the Robotic Industries Association at www.robotics.org.