Manufacturing automation with robotics systems and controls programs are as much a component of product cost optimization (PCO) as engineering cost optimization strategies. Robotic automation is ideal for manufacturers in competitive markets dealing with high production volumes and unsatisfactory time-to-market.
By equipping labor-intensive manufacturing lines with automated solutions, companies can see drastic reductions in production time and improve productivity, leading to overall cost benefits across the board.
In this article, we highlight one of our most recent case studies on robotic automation solutions, and ways the company in question was able to boost productivity and savings with no cost to product quality.
The Company’s Manufacturing Problem
The company in this study is an innovator in the mattress manufacturing industry, which has served over 150 countries for well over 75 years. Known for their exceptional products, the company sought ways to overcome productivity challenges without compromising overall quality. Specifically, the company faced product handling, sizing and flexibility issues that compounded in an inefficient time-to-market.
The manufacturer in this instance contacted B-WI to identify and install automation solutions, which were intended to:
- Drastically cut back on production labor
- Improve turnover and time-to-market
- Develop products with zero inconsistencies
- Increase flexibility to produce and distribute any product
B-WI’s Approach to Help the Client via Automation
When evaluating the manufacturer’s challenges, B-WI identified a two-phase approach to automation robotics. In the first phase, B-WI collected data on manual labor processes and the product lines in question, and developed automation concepts that could lower cost and risk during production.
In the second phase of B-WI’s automation approach, the B-WI design team worked with robotics experts and the client to approve automation concepts, and move forward with implementing the solutions necessary to meet the client’s productivity needs.
The robotics and automation solutions in this case included the following:
- A robotic tracking system to pick and place base foam for mattresses, configured for pre-defined storage and maneuverable up to 50+ feet.
- Automated material feeding equipment to lift, size and align foam mattress materials with zero labor. Configured with robotics equipment before and after feeding for maximized productivity.
- Rail retrofitting along the manufacturing line allowing for easy, automated robot pickup.
- Robotic foam rail assembly, which automated assembly of glued and product-ready foam mattress bases.
During implementation of the above automation solutions, B-WI worked closely with the client to overcome key challenges caused by the transition from human labor to robotics. This included base foam and density variety, sizing alterations and automated cutting/gluing.
By implementing B-WI’s recommended robotics systems at key stages during manufacturing, the company was able to reduce manual labor by over 65%, and improve overall productivity by roughly 22%. This reduction slashed a number of high costs associated with labor, giving the company valuable price flexibility it did not have prior.
The most notable aspect of B-WI’s robotics solutions, in this case study, was the sustained quality of the manufacturing process’s end-products; despite being handled largely by automated equipment, instead of a human workforce, products faced no drop or change in quality. The client was able to produce the same high quality products they’ve been known for, except with higher productivity, a fraction of the labor and significantly reduced cost.
To access the case study in full, click on the button below. To learn more about various PCO practices, and steps your company can take to slash exorbitant manufacturing costs, access our case study on the subject here.