IMS Leverages Cobot Welder to Maintain Production Despite Welder Shortage

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The Customer

Industrial Manufacturing Services (IMS) is a large manufacturer of fabricated metal components for OEMs in the heavy machinery industry. Located in Lancaster, South Carolina, and in the business for more than 25 years, the company employs over 70 workers. 
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“Ten to 15 years ago, recruiting welders was a lot easier, and labor was cheaper back then. Today, there is a gap in the skill levels of welders. Welders are harder to hire nowadays.”
Warren Earl
Vice President of IMS

The Business Challenge

IMS had difficulty finding manual welders to meet the growing demand for parts. While production was high, the team couldn’t find enough welders to do the jobs. “We always knew automation was going to be the way forward,” Warren added. Automation would enable the company to address the lack of welders and ensure repeatability among the over 700 different part numbers IMS actively makes.

Initially, the company acquired several traditional robotic cells. However, they were complicated to set up and program. “In fact, a team of three is required to handle all the programming and the robots’ inner workings,” said Matt Blowers, an IMS Manufacturing Engineer.

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The Solution

IMS decided to try Hirebotics’ Cobot Welder to tackle the productivity and complexity issues stemming from conventional welding robots. At first, IMS was skeptical about Cobot Welder’s ease of use because the team had tried other cobots and didn’t experience much change in terms of programming times and simplicity. 

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However, their skepticism soon dissipated once they got their hands on Cobot Welder. “We had welders learn how to use Cobot Welder in about half an hour,” Matt said. “Hirebotics’ Cobot Welder has allowed us to let non-welders operate the machine. They don’t need to learn the programming language, and they don’t need to go to a school.” 

Justin Payne, a Manufacturing Engineer at IMS, agrees. “Programming a traditional robot takes at least an hour. It took me four minutes and 19 seconds at one Cobot Welder station. It was much more user-friendly too. If you have several Cobot Welders, you can transfer a program from one machine to another by simply copying and pasting. You don’t have to rewrite things,” he said. 

Justin also explained that he could use the Cobot Welder app on his cellphone to fix problems on the fly and help the welding team in real-time if they have any questions about setting up a specific job.

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The Results

According to Matt, Hirebotics’ Cobot Welder has significantly increased the welding team’s productivity and cycle times. He mentioned that while in terms of production speed and accuracy, Cobot Welder matches the performance of conventional welding robots, the huge advantage is the simplicity and nearly complete elimination of robot programming. 

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“With Cobot Welder, it takes five to 10 minutes to set everything up. Traditional robot programming can take one to two hours. It’s far easier getting new parts started on them. You can flip parts within 10 to 20 minutes. It could take a couple of hours with other robots to get just one done. Because of traditional robots' long programming times, Cobot Welders run longer with hardly any downtimes."

Matt Blowers
Manufacturing Engineer, IMS

Another advantage Matt found with Cobot Welders is that they take up a much smaller footprint. Taking down a Cobot Welder to move it somewhere else doesn’t even take half a day. On the other hand, traditional robotic cells could take up to three days to take down and move.

IMS has been able to achieve higher production capacity. Most new work is assigned to the team’s Cobot Welders. The company has taken on more jobs; more menial jobs are attributed to Cobot Welders, while welders handle the more complicated work, improving job satisfaction among the staff.

Matt appreciates the experience he and his welders had with Hirebotics. “Cobot Welder has helped us in production so much; I couldn’t believe I had questions to begin with!”

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