There’s a lot of hidden, and not so hidden, downtime associated with day-to-day metal fabrication. Stop what you’re doing and take a look out on the shop floor. Is that laser waiting to be loaded, to have parts removed, for the operator to come back from a break or waiting for the next program or nest?
If that laser machine isn’t cutting then you’re losing revenue. In this business it’s all about beam-on time; and automation keeps that machine cutting. Automating a stand-alone laser with even a simple, entry-level load / unload system can increase a CO2 or Fiber laser’s productivity by at least 25%. Most machines are now Factory 4.0 compliant and machine monitoring is a large portion of that initiative. Monitoring machine cutting efficiency and breaking it down by day, week, month and even shift is a great way to assess your automation needs as well as your overall productivity.
And that’s just the beginning. The results are increased exponentially when a fully automated “lights out” operation is implemented leveraging automated nesting and scheduling software, material storage towers and river systems for tracking and storing different material types and thickness. In this scenario, high-volume fabricators have the ability for unattended overnight or weekend runs. So in the morning there are 40 thousand, 60 thousand pounds of cut parts stacked up. The fabricator can bring in temporary workers to break out parts, allowing the skilled labor to concentrate on more complex tasks.
Automation goes a long way toward addressing the dilemma of every shop owner or production manager; finding and keeping skilled employees and achieving the largest rate of return on their efforts. Automation allows shops to reallocate human resources away from menial tasks to more productive duties thereby increasing the total production dollars generated per employee and per operation.