Founded in 1977 in Salina, Kansas, Vortex Companies specializes in the design and steel-manufactured components for dry bulk solids' transportation and flow control. With over 420 employees, the company produces a wide range of solutions, including slide gates, diverters, iris valves, and other loading parts, for big-name brands, such as Cargrill, Kraft Foods, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Nestle, P&G, Rio Tinto, and more. Vortex Companies has five offices around the world and a global service network that spans over 120 countries.
The business also started acquiring other companies like Spectrum Metalcraft, a Vortex Company, to own more of their supply chain.
“There is a huge labor shortage for qualified welders in Labour shortage in Central Kansas. Using traditional robots was not going to work as this type of equipment still required welders’ on hand to supervise and drive the process completely.”
Vortex Companies decided to look into newer technologies to help them ease the pressure of a lack of experienced welders. The welding team quickly opted for Hirebotics automated welding solution, Cobot Welder, as a viable alternative to conventional robots.
Cobot Welder was reputed for being easy to set up and use by operators of all skill levels, even if they were unfamiliar with welding best practices. Cobot Welder required little-to-none programming—a huge benefit to Vortex Companies’ already time-strapped welding and production teams.
Thomas was adamant about the positive experience and results Vortex Companies has had with Hirebotics’ Cobot Welder. “Since implementing the cobot, we have been able to take hundreds more parts in a much quicker timeframe than our previous robots. We have had fewer overtime hours with hand welding as we have been able to assign more jobs to Cobot Welder. We’ve increased our profits just by cutting out on overtime.”
Ryan Lockhard, the Robotic Weld Lead at Vortex Companies who oversees welding operations at Spectrum Metalcraft, a subsidiary, is equally impressed.
“Our Hirebotics’ cobots handle anything and everything. “If we see a component work order of a quantity of 10 or more, I’ll reach out to learn how many our client will need in the upcoming year or how many they ordered in the past. If that quantity is high enough, I’ll ask my engineering team to create a great fixture. If not, I’ll build a quick fixture to be up and running by the end of the day.”
“If a hand weld time took 25 minutes in the past, it now takes us five minutes. If it’s a five-minute part, it takes us 37 seconds. If it is a three-hour part, it will take us about 20 minutes.”
“The training was extremely simple, and the cobot operation was easy to learn. It was fun, actually,” said Power Glover, a Robotic Weld Tech. “Cobot Welder was very self-explanatory. Monotonous tasks are diverted to the cobot so that manual welders can be devoted to larger, more complex projects. It takes the weight off our team.”
Another advantage is that manual welders don’t have to do the 55-hour work weeks they used to do in the past. Ryan explained that hours are still offered to welders; however, they can enjoy working a more balanced 40-hour week if they choose to. “Nobody lost their job,” Ryan added. “In fact, we created three positions since we acquired Cobot Welder.”
Ryan continued: “If you have a part that you are planning to build more than 100 repetitively, consider a welding cobot. You can drastically reduce errors, especially thanks to fixturing.”
Improved efficiency. Boosted production capacity. Reduced errors. Happier hand welders. Those are a lot of benefits for a business like Vortex Companies!