Founded in the mid-1990s, Tier 1 supplier Tower Automotive manufactures a wide range of structural assemblies, including vehicle frames, doors and suspension components. For years, the company has employed robotic automation at its 39 facilities worldwide to ensure quality and efficiency in its manufacturing processes.
In its three Italian plants, located in the communities of None, Melfi and Caserta, 250 robots work alongside 650 operators to produce a number of different body-in-white components and subassemblies. Nearly all the robots are from ABB Robotics. According to Flavio Fossat, director of Tower Europe’s technical center in Italy, the robots in these three facilities are involved in everything from parts handling to precision arc, spot and projection welding.
Recently, the robots at Tower’s None plant played a critical role in helping engineers increase the plant’s production capacity for side rails. Specifically, the facility had to increase the number of rails it produced each day from 250 to 450. The rails would be installed in the new Alfa Romeo Mito, as well as the Fiat Grande Punto.
To handle the increase, engineers at the None plant completely reworked the cell where it assembles the rails. Each side rail requires 160 to 200 spot welds, depending on the model.
“The best approach to retooling is finding the right compromise between labor and technology,” Fossat says. “We went from predominantly manual labor-although some spots have always been done with robots to ensure top quality-to a highly automated cell, all in a few months, from concept to development and optimization of the assembly line.”
In the end, the company increased the number of robots in the cell from nine to 14. According to Fossat, Tower went with ABB’s 6600 series robots because of the robots’ speed and precision. “We chose them because they are the most sophisticated robots on the market,” Fossat says. “But we can’t say they are better than our previous ABB robots, because the ones we had were already excellent.”
For more on robots and automation, visit www.abb.com/robotics or call 248-391-9000.