Manufacturers have seen a lot of upward pressure on costs including labor, materials, and freight. To further mitigate non-value-added labor cost from impacting part price, New Berlin Plastics has deployed a new UR20 collaborative robot (cobot) from Universal Robots. Focused on automating tasks for higher tonnage presses, the UR20 adds new capabilities to the automation fleet. The arm reaches 68.9 inches (1750 mm), which is one of the longest reaches of any robot on the market today that can handle a comparable payload. New Berlin Plastics is one of the first injection molders in the U.S. to have a UR20 deployed on a production floor.
Once a part on a JSW 1400-ton press has been molded, a STAR overhead cartesian robot removes the 12-in. x 18-in. part and hands it off to the UR20 for packing in 3-ft deep gaylord boxes. At a 45 second cycle time, the system can pack 400 parts in five hours.
By delivering injection molded parts up to 12 weeks faster than overseas suppliers and reducing production costs through automation, New Berlin Plastics is contributing to the reshoring effort in the United States.
Unlike many injection molding companies, NBP does not work with a system integrator but instead has its own internal automation department: Automation Engineer Adam Machajewski, two Manufacturing Engineers Paul Bierwagen and Paul Rapp, and our Engineering Technician Matt Kristiansen.
Integrating the automation systems in-house helps save customers money because setup is faster, there are no third-party integrator markups to pass along, and there’s a quick response for maintenance issues to reduce line downtime.
Having installed the new UR20 last month, NBP is already seeing significant efficiency improvements that help the company control costs. Through automating these packaging tasks, NBP reduces the amount of non-value-added labor that is passed through to a customer in their part price.
“Our automation expertise gives us a competitive advantage when we quote,” says Karl Held, Business Development Manager at NBP. “We continually invest in new technologies to ensure growth of our capabilities while offering excellent quality at a competitive price.”
The immediate benefits of the UR20 cobot include:
- Reallocating a person to a more value-added task
- Reducing non-value-added labor costs
- Increasing labor capacity for value-added secondary work such as pad printing, kitting, and light assembly
- Eliminating risk of personal injury and time away from work by reducing the need for employees to bend and twist repeatedly during a shift
- Vision systems on the robot inspect parts continually to reduce the risk of poor quality parts entering customers’ supply chains
Flexibility to handle other jobs
The UR20 cobot, like all NBP’s UR robots, is mounted on a mobile cart so it can be moved to other production lines as needed. This expands NBP’s ability to be dynamic in how automation is used on the production floor. As the cobot is redeployed for other tasks, NBP’s automation team will make its own end-of-arm tooling to match those requirements.
NBP launched its internal automation department in 2018 and has continued to grow it. Initially working with a small fleet of UR5E cobots for insert loading and a UR10, the company has expanded its capabilities through new equipment and building redundancy in its robotics fleet. Choosing another UR cobot just made sense because it has a common interface and open-source software, so it’s easy to program and operate.
“We haven’t had to retrain on a new robot platform because the UR20 looks and acts like our other UR cobots,” says Bierwagen. “We mold hundreds of products on multiple lines, so it’s helpful to have consistency in the cobots when they’re moved around for different tasks, wherever we need them.”
When the UR20 was first installed in the shop, the employee response was positive. “People are really comfortable working alongside these cobots. When we initially trialed the UR20, the employee response was positive,” Machajewski says. “They know it’s going to help reduce the amount of repetitive work that could strain their backs.”
Contact us to learn more about how New Berlin Plastics can help control costs with parts made using robotic automation.