How to Get Started with Robotic CNC Automation: Part 1 – Adopting a Culture of Automation

  • Versabuilt
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  • Al Youngwerth

CNC production targets keep getting missed. Scrap rates are high. We don’t have enough CNC operators to meet demand. Production costs are rising. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Experienced, reliable, and dedicated CNC operators are in short supply and the problem is forecast to get worse. Many CNC shops are foregoing opportunities because they know they can’t meet the demand. Other shops consistently fail to meet customer expectations because they can’t meet their production targets. CNC automation seems like it could help but will it solve my production problems or end up in a corner collecting dust?

Will Robotic CNC Automation Work for My Shop?

Like most things in life, that depends. In our experience, three primary factors dictate the success of a CNC automation project:

  1. Adopting a Culture of Automation
  2. Selecting the Right Automation Equipment for the Job
  3. Continuous Improvement

In this article, we introduce the concept

Adopting a Culture of Automation

If you’re like most machine shops in the USA, the majority of your CNC production is high-mix, small-batch production. Automating high-mix, small-batch production represents the greatest opportunity for improving production output and reducing labor costs for most machine shops. And if you’re like most machine shops in the USA, you’ve probably spent years developing and improving your high-mix, small-batch CNC production; many companies consider this expertise as their core competency.

You need to look at high-mix, small-batch CNC automation the same way. Develop expertise in high-mix, small-batch CNC automation internally. Outsourcing turn-key automation for dozens, let alone hundreds or thousands of part numbers is just not practical. Almost all CNC production can be automated. Using modern automation equipment, your existing team can be trained to operate, maintain and add new parts for automation without relying on a hired robot expert every step of the way. That same modern CNC automation equipment has become so easy and cost-effective to use that there is almost no cost or time penalty to automate vs conventional CNC operator loading. Why use an operator to load parts when a robot can do it for 1/10th the cost or less?

CNC automation excellence won’t come all at once in one day and that’s ok. With the proper training and guidance, you should see immediate results. Greater production output through the dedicated and immediate service of the CNC machine by the robot and a reduction in labor by making your existing labor much more efficient. Over time, as you add more automation equipment and more parts to the automation, expect to see a dramatic transformation of your CNC machine shop. More production output, improved quality, lower scrap rates, less operator damaged equipment, lower costs, and a happier more dedicated team of CNC operators.

Up next: Selecting the Right Automation Equipment for the Job

Author: Al Youngwerth
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