CNC machine shop has “increased speed and adaptability” with collaborative automation solution
Fitzpatrick Manufacturing, a CNC machine shop and custom manufacturer, has installed a Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer collaborative robot at its Sterling Heights, Michigan, facility to increase operational efficiency and to counterbalance a tight labor market.
Founded in 1952, Fitzpatrick Manufacturing supplies parts to more than a dozen sectors, including aerospace, automotive, medical equipment and oil and gas.
The company is noted for its innovation and regularly brings new technology into the factory to increase speed, improve efficiency and remain competitive.
As its first step towards deploying advanced automation, the Fitzpatrick team knew that selecting the right task for Sawyer was critical to success.
Kevin LaComb, co-president at Fitzpatrick Manufacturing, says: “We were very deliberate about finding the right job for Sawyer.
“This is the first time we’ve deployed advanced automation. In job shops, it’s hard to predict what project will come in. With Sawyer’s adaptability, we can automate the repetitive, mundane jobs and free up human workers for more skilled, higher value tasks.”
In the Fitzpatrick Manufacturing facility, Sawyer helps hone parts that become components for the motion control industry, which requires precise tolerance and repetitive action.
Sawyer identifies which part to run first – short versus long – and loads it into the honing machine.
When the first part is finished, Sawyer removes it, loads a second part into the machine and places the first part in the wash station.
From there, Sawyer dries the part at the air blow station before packaging it in a box for shipment. With 400 spots on the pinboard to process, Sawyer can package between 280 and 300 before a human worker needs to intervene.
This process could take five to eight hours, which allows Sawyer to run overnight, lights out, and have all the parts ready to go when workers arrive back at the facility.
The majority of Fitzpatrick’s employees have been around for years, and introducing Sawyer was initially met with uncertainty on the floor. However, once the team saw the cobot’s versatility, and were able to focus on more interesting work, Sawyer was a welcome addition to the line.
Jon Mutz, team leader at Fitzpatrick Manufacturing, says: “At first, there was some hesitation around Sawyer’s deployment.
“The older generation was a little unsure of the new technology, while the younger group was excited. Once the team realized Sawyer wasn’t here to take their jobs, but rather help them do their jobs better and give them opportunities for more rewarding work, there was universal acceptance of and appreciation for Sawyer.”
For Fitzpatrick Manufacturing, like other job shops, it’s all about machine utilization. Considering the success of the first Sawyer implementation, the team at Fitzpatrick already has ideas for additional Sawyer deployments.