When finding employees to fill repetitive manual jobs proved challenging, Dynamic Group, a Minnesota-based contract manufacturer, looked to automation. Three collaborative robot arms from Universal Robots have now taken over several repetitive tasks, resulting in production capacity increases of up to 400% and a 60% reduction of operators required for its kitting process.
In Dynamic Group’s kitting application, a UR10 robot uses a vacuum gripper to pick up a “clam shell”—the bottom part of a plastic box. Then the robot picks and places sterile wipes and saline solution into the clam shell, and pushes the loaded shell onto a conveyor. Before the UR10, Dynamic Group required six to seven employees at once for this packaging application.
“It was fast-paced and very high-volume,” says Dynamic Group CEO Joe McGillivray. “It wasn’t sustainable. Now we’re able to run it with as little as two people.”
McGillivray initially thought Dynamic Group couldn’t afford such a versatile and capable automation solution. “When I started looking, I assumed I was talking hundreds of thousands of dollars per installation. I was surprised to find that we could afford a six-axis robot and a collaborative one at that,” says McGillivray, who also assumed he would need an expensive programmer or engineer to install the robots.
But even though McGillivray isn’t an engineer and had no previous robotic experience, within an hour of delivery he had the robots set up and running the first test tasks. “Their great user interface made them extremely easy to program. So my initial assumptions in terms of investment and extra hires were completely wrong,” he explains. “Having this type of success out of the gate as first-time rookies at this stuff has been phenomenal and totally unexpected. Our return on investment was less than two months, and we can even go further because we’re able to adapt the robots to other products so quickly.”
Dynamic Group often faces high-mix, low-volume challenges in its production flow, so traditional robots that are bolted down inside a bulky safety cage were never an option. The lightweight Universal Robots are mounted on wheeled bases that can be easily moved to different processes on the production floor and quickly reprogrammed for new jobs. And with the robots’ built-in, patented safety features, they can be used right alongside human workers on the packaging line. When the robot goes into a safety stop, an operator can quickly start the robot back up using its touchscreen interface without any assistance from a programmer or engineer.
Contrary to popular belief, having robots take over tasks previously handled by employees did not lead to staff layoffs at Dynamic Group.
“We needed to make better use of the labor we had on hand. Instead of using our employees as labor, we needed to use their brains. That’s what Universal Robots has helped us be able to do. We lowered our labor content per part, and gave people better jobs,” says McGillivray, who is now training employees to operate, install, and program the UR robots.
For more details on how Universal Robots helped Dynamic Group increase productivity and reduce the need for operators in repetitive manual packaging processes, see the video. Or find a UR distributor in your area and get started on your own packaging enhancements.