Athena Manufacturing is a company that specializes in producing sophisticated metal products for a wide variety of sectors, including semiconductors, aerospace, motorsports, healthcare, oil and gas, and the US Department of Defense.
Based in Austin, Texas, and with over 250 employees, the company’s precision machining, precision fabrication, and mechanical assemblies are renowned for their quality and respect for even the most exacting challenges.
“Due to our limited resources and space, that repeatability, reliability, and even production capacity were compromised. There were simply not enough new employees that were experienced enough to come in and start producing right away.”
As is the case with many fabrication shops, Athena Manufacturing has faced recruitment challenges in hiring both new and experienced workers for specialized processes, such as welding, grinding, and machine tending, because of the tight labor market. This inevitably led to the company having to refuse production projects.
“With our type of work, the repeatability and tolerances are really tight for the components we develop,” explained Kyle Naylor, AWS CWI / Weld Supervisor at Athena Manufacturing.
Athena Manufacturing turned to Hirebotics’ welding automation solutions to mitigate the issues surrounding being short-staffed.
Two Cobot Welders service one large Seigmund table for bigger component production, with five interchangeable fixtures for different part numbers.
Another Hirebotics cobot was also set up on a smaller Seigmund table for smaller high-volume production parts.
Finally, a fourth welding cobot was placed on a turntable supplied by the company Vention.
According to Athena Manufacturing, the results have been outstanding.
“The cobot and app setups have allowed us to hire and train inexperienced operators who don’t have any formal welding knowledge,” Kyle said. “We haven’t removed any manual welding jobs—in fact, we are still expanding in that area; however, thanks to the cobots, we were able to keep up with demand.”
“Our production has increased capacity. We have multiple projects where, in a manual weld setting, the part takes approximately 7-8 hours to complete, and we've decreased that run time to 2-2.5 hours."
“Also, I’ve personally programmed cobots to handle large parts—with multiple programs and a few hundred points—and it takes less than a day. Before, it would have taken me two weeks to program a traditional robot completely.”
In addition, the cobots can also respect the tight tolerances required by Athena Manufacturing’s customers thanks to the robust fixturings. “In addition to decreasing production times, we have increased the reliability and uniformity of each part compared to using traditional robots. Investing in innovative equipment has been a perfect marketing tool for us,” Ernest Key, Operations Manager, added.
Kyle envisions adding even more of Hirebotics’ Cobot Welder in the near future. He recommends that manufacturers view their investments in automated welding solutions and fixturings as a means to boost not only productivity and sales—but also tools to upskill and attract talent.
“When you invest in technology, you invest in your people.”