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Auto Suppliers' Productivity Jumps 125% with Robotic System
by Cathy Powell
FANUC America Corporation
Challenges that typically prompt manufacturers to automate one or more of their production processes include: aggressive production schedules, quality control issues, employee safety and flexibility, to name a few.
These were all relevant issues for Hawthorne Metal Products (Royal Oak, Mich.), a tier one automotive stampings supplier. Business growth in recent years had the company scrambling to meet demanding production schedules without sacrificing quality. Hawthorne was also challenged to ensure that employee safety wasn’t threatened, despite the increasing demands.
The FANUC Robotics system provided the manufacturer the flexibility to transfer stampings directly to the next press or flip the part over between presses during the transfer.
After realizing how robotics could improve the company’s competitiveness on this smaller scale, Hawthorne began to explore the possibility of adding robots to its second longest press line, which consists of six presses -- a Danley double action draw press and five Niagara mechanical presses.
Working in partnership with Hawthorne, FANUC Robotics developed a turnkey press transfer system for the six-press line. The new automated solution uses five M-500 robots and two M-410i robots to automatically transfer parts between presses. The system also includes die carts and automatic destacking equipment from Atlas Technologies, and a PLC-based line monitor that uses FANUC Robotics’ PressWorks integrated press line control software.
Since Hawthorne began production with the robotic system (June 1997), the company has realized a 125% jump in productivity. Prior to automating this line, Hawthorne was completing only 200 parts per hour. With the new system, the company estimates that they will be able to process up to 450 parts per hour.
The new system also allows the manufacturer to significantly decrease its die change time between parts, a critical capability in today’s stamping environment. “You’re not going to be an industry leader unless you have quick die change time,” said DaBrowa. With robotics and a quick die change system, Hawthorne expects to decrease changeover time from 6-8 hours to 30 minutes.
Finally, by automating this line Hawthorne is now able to process Class A surface parts for the first time. Stratton said the company expects this capability to open up several new opportunities for Hawthorne. “Our customers are very excited that we can now produce a broader range of components,” he said. “Hawthorne is very excited that robotics provides us the world-class capabilities we need to be a world-class stampings supplier.”