Close the Skills Gap With In-House Robotics Expertise
Manufacturing workers are tough to find in Bucharest, Romania. In one of the city’s main plants, Assa Abloy Romania, the skills gap is widening every year. The factory’s management invested in robotics to automate simple tasks and fill value-added positions with their actual workers. This generated in-house robotics expertise that set an example for the whole Assa Abloy group.
A walk into Assa Abloy Romania’s factory may seem endless. About 500 people work here, assembling locks that are sent to other Assa Abloy factories worldwide, where they’re transformed into finished products. Tons of different processes are performed, most of them manually by employees who have been working there for decades.
It was the beginning of what they call the automation revolution. Due to its lack of personnel, the Bucharest factory rapidly emerged as a leader in robotics for the Assa Abloy group.
They started by automating the most simple and repetitive processes. “We wanted to automate the welded assembly between a front plate and a case. There used to be an operator who put both parts together manually,” explains Adrian Iosif. “We had in mind to build a flexible cell that could handle lots of parts at lots of stations.”
A Plug + Play solution for high-mix/low-volume production
Robotiq Plug & Play components rapidly emerged as a top solution. “We found the Robotiq 2-Finger Adaptive Robot Gripper, which is really adaptive to different parts. It was exactly what we needed. We also bought the Wrist Camera, which is very flexible and able to locate parts in a wide field of view. Anytime there is a new lock to assemble, you can teach a new part. You can teach as many parts as you want and choose which one you will use and that’s it, you change the production.”
“As soon as we had the robot here, we started to play with it a little bit,” recalls Adrian Iosif. “We saw how easy it is to program. That made us want to buy it and see furthermore how we could benefit from it.” With all the cell design completed, the integration phase started as Iosif and his team were aiming for a cycle time that would improve productivity.
Locate, pick and place two parts in twenty seconds
Adrian Iosif wanted to automate the setup of a welding assembly that used to be done by a human operator. This included locating the front plate, placing it in the welding machine, picking the case and placing it correctly over the plate on the fixture. Finally, the operator would press the button for welding. Beating this time with a robot wouldn’t be easy. “When the first robot arrived, the reaction of the people was not very good. They said that the robot would not be able to produce at the same rate. And they were right at first.”
This new process still requires a human presence for now, but makes life a lot easier for operator Moise Nicolae. “At the beginning, I had some technical challenges with the robot. But after a bit of time it became really easy and it’s very simple to work with the robot. It’s a big difference for me working with a robot because my task is much more easy.”
In-house robotics expertise
While an operator is still required at Assa Abloy Romania’s first collaborative cell, the worker’s duty is now a lot less futile. Plus, each operator will eventually be in charge of two collaborative cells. This step into automation is the first of many for Adrian Iosif, a mechanical engineer who learned a bit about robots in his previous job and started working with Robotiq and Universal Robots on this project: “I didn’t have programming skills but I found it very easy, with logic knowledge, to program the robot, the gripper and the camera.”
Iosif’s motivation and enthusiasm is easy to feel. He shares it with the whole Assa Abloy Romania’s automation department, a team that now includes 10 people, only a year after its creation. “It is tough and expensive to find integrators in Romania. They have a different solution for every different part. In our team, we have a manager and four engineers like me. We also have three students with us part-time and two technicians who help us build what we plan. The main role of the automation revolution happening here at the Romanian plant is also to set an example for our colleagues in other plants in Europe, to show what we can do with new technologies like collaborative robots.”
According to RobotsNET’s Razvan Isac, the Assa Abloy case is a regular story in Romania, where manufacturing recruitment is a tough endeavour in which robots are used as backups. “This solution is an alternative,” Isac explains. “Factories don’t buy a robot to replace people, they buy it because they cannot find people. I’ve never seen someone lose his job to a robot in Romania.” With man and machine working together more and more each day, adding to an economy that is more open to other markets than ever before, Romania now seems on the right track to fulfill its manufacturing potential.
Automate your simple processes today
Robotiq’s Lean Robotics methodology and products enable manufacturers to deploy productive robot cells across their factory. They leverage the Lean Robotics methodology in order to get to the production phase faster and increase robot productivity. Production engineers standardize their processes using Robotiq’s Plug + Play components for their ease of programming, built-in integration, and versatility. They rely on Insights and Skills to accelerate robot projects and optimize robot performance once in production.