However, next to this cell were two cells that produced the same parts consistently every day. This cell was a much better candidate for consideration as the amount of handling tools (for both finished parts and sand casts) would be minimised and the chance of a good business case for automating could be produced.
Finally, a cell that was not even considered for automation by our customer was recommended for further investigation in our automation consultation report. After the casting process, a finishing process takes place, where the excess aluminium produced on each part as part of the casting process is cut and fettled away, allowing the part to move to the machining stage.
This process seemed labour intensive for all parts and is repeatable work that is well suited to automation.
Ultimately, after a further engineering stage, it was found that a business case couldn’t quite be proved for the casting cells, but the finishing cell was a huge opportunity for the casting company.
By producing a two robot cell that would run on both day and night shifts, 16 parts could be automated. The automated cells needed two heads per shift to run (so four in total across two shifts) compared to fifteen heads required to manually finish the parts.
Across a five-year payback period the cell produced a 41% saving when comparing the purchase price of the system and the four heads of labour to run it against the fifteen heads that were previously producing the parts. The automated cell would pay for itself after 27 months through labour savings alone.
Our customer also agreed that the new system produced intangible benefits, such as better quality and a reduction in scrap when using the automated system.
Our customer was not even aware that this process would be a good candidate for automation, and it was only through our no obligation site visit that we were able to identify this to them.