Safeguarding Employees with Robotics
There has been a lot of talk about robots being used in welding. Some are for it, seeing it as a great advance and seeing opportunities for better paying jobs as the people that are programming the robots. Others see it as an intrusion and feel that robots could potentially take over and force welders out of their jobs and into unemployment. They also feel that the work that robots do will never be as good as what is done by hand by welders because there is no heart and soul put into the work.
Picture Credit: www.bobalee.com
Midmark Corporation, located in Versailles, Ohio, is a company that manufactures health care products that are used by veterinarians, dentists, and doctors to care for patients. The company makes a wide variety of products, such as lighting, cabinetry, procedure chairs, treatment and exam tables, carts, workstations, and dental operatories. The company believes that safety should be the number one priority and this extends to their employees.
The company has taken additional measures to protect the 300 employees – most specifically it's welding team – during the material handling process involved in the creation of the medical tables. Each table is customized, some requiring as many as 30 different weldments, and is delivered on a three day lead time. Weld fixtures had to be moved on and off the shelf all the time because there might be more than 100 total weld fixtures.
The company turned to robotics to ease the physical labor of the welding teams, especially in regards to moving the heavy fixtures. The moving of the fixtures – and the possibility of the teammate doing it being in weld fumes – is what caused the decision. Operators handle the fixtures in one piece units rather than having to split them apart because the robots can handle up to four hundred pounds, and there is less room for error. Simulations can be run that allow the welding team operating the robots to see what might need to be adjusted before work is done. No welders were laid off; rather, they were moved to other areas of the plant if they were not part of the robotic team. Efficiency has increased as has safety for the workers, with less injuries and more satisfied welders.