Robotic Welding: Can You Find ROI for Small Batch Production Operations?
Robotic welding, by nature, provides the most productivity in high-volume, repetitive applications. In these types of situations, little programming and tooling change is required, and uptime remains at very high levels. The problem is that not all applications are prime targets for robotic welding.
In robotic welding, return on investment (ROI) accrues at every production cycle, as do the costs of having a robotic welding system. It can be difficult for smaller companies to tell if robotic welding will be able to perform and produce the returns they need.
The truth is, due to the recent advancements in automation technology, just about any size company can benefit from robotic automation and find ROI too.
Why Use Robotic Welding in the First Place?
If you aren’t sure if you can find ROI on robotic welding, why consider it in the first place? There are many reasons most small companies have their eyes set on automation.
First, the main reason to automate is to compete with the bigger players in the market. Larger companies have the capital to invest in robotic welding and the resources to absorb larger initial investments in automation. This creates a significant advantage over shops who still have to weld manually. If you want to compete, you’ll have to invest in robotic automation at some point.
Second, there’s a major welder shortage in the U.S. The Department of Labor projects the industry will have to add 12,850 welders every year until 2024 just to keep up with demand. Robotic automation solves the welder shortage before it has the chance to hurt your company.
What You Need for ROI for Small Batch Production
Every application is different, and there’s no one single way to automate all welding processes, but there are a few things to look for that will likely help you achieve ROI in your operations.
First, you’ll need a flexible work envelope with several axes, especially if your small batch production includes several different types of parts. To find ROI, the system will need to be able to adapt to different parts quickly.
You’ll also need a rapid method of offline programming. Welders can often be trained to operate robots, where their expertise in welding comes in handy. Additionally, a system integrator’s offline programming software provides a great opportunity to get a head start and get your robots welding the first day they arrive.
There are several other things to look for when automating small batch welding processes, but these two things are very important.
It is certainly possible to find ROI in small batch welding environments when implementing robotic systems, you just need to know what you’re looking for and choose the right integrator with experience with your application.
If you want to learn more about robotic welding in various industrial environments, browse a list of robotic welding case studies here to find one similar to your application.