Over the past decades, automation has been transforming factory floors, the nature of the workforce, and the economy of several logistics and manufacturing sectors. It is widely used in automated assembly lines that boost efficiency and production rates while cutting costs and lessening labor requirements. Comprehensive Logistics is one company seeking to automate its inspection of an engine cradle sub-assembly.
The Company Background
Comprehensive Logistics is an automotive and leading third-party logistics provider offering supply chain engineering and warehouse management services. As a contract manufacturer, the company provides high-volume, high-velocity warehouse operations, including ISO and IATF certified value-added subassembly capability. The company redefines how logistics and synchronous contract manufacturing get done. It determines the optimal fit between its large number of services, ranging from warehouse management, contract manufacturing, dedicated shuttles and yard management intelligence, and OEMs’ needs.
The Challenge: Comprehensive Logistics Needed to Automate Its Inspection for Sub-Assembly Line
For Comprehensive Logistics, the challenge was automating its inspection of an engine cradle sub-assembly, which encompasses a critical steering-gear wire harness connector. The company also needed to ensure that each sub-assembly is fully seated and locked. If there is a loose connection, it can cause an intermittent or complete loss of the power steering. Also, the automated inspection system required to keep pace with the line’s high volumes while ensuring a proper connection with the electrical connectors inside the wire harness.
However, this process was causing the contract manufacturer headaches as the stationary multi-camera system the company deployed couldn’t position cameras into tight spots and wasn’t as repeatable as it needed.
Thus, the company began researching solutions that would have to support Comprehensive Logistics’ up-time requirements, be simple to use and had to integrate easily with the processes and people on the line.
The Solution: Comprehensive Logistics Finds Universal Robots Cobots
After researching alternatives, Comprehensive Logistics found Universal Robots and quickly realized it was cost-effective, and its light-duty robot could move a vision camera to the right positions safely and repeatably. The Universal Robots’ ceiling-mounted, equipped with a vision camera UR10 collaborative robot (Cobot) moves quickly between inspection points, snapping a picture of each connection before the cobot arm retracts to a home position, and waits for the next assembly to inspect. The contract manufacturer chose the UR10 cobot due to its reach to 51-inch and built-in safety features.
During the inspection of the sub-assemblies, each image is instantly shown on a screen next to the robot while a second screen with a diagram of the engine cradle demonstrates each inspection point completed with a green or a red checkmark to indicate pass and failure.
Comprehensive Logistics’ assembly line produces engine cradle versions for both diesel and gas motors, with 11 and nine inspection points, respectively. An Ohio-based certified system integrator of Universal Robots’ gear, Automation Zone, configured the inspection system to identify either engine product coming down the line. Specifically, the robot and camera system talk to the assembly line programmable logic controller (PLC) through the EtherNet/IP protocol to find out various engine types and other critical data.
With a 60-second takt time at each station on the assembly line, and the inspection cycle time runs for about 48 seconds, with the UR10 cobot it takes around 32 seconds. That allows time for re-run fails without the whole assembly line coming to a standstill. This overall inspection time is very essential as Comprehensive Logistics receives just-in-time orders from automakers.
The contract manufacturer also achieved 100% quality in the assembly of automotive engines; Ability to automate without safety caging, enabling side-by-side operation with line workers; Zero maintenance with no down-time or interruptions of the line; Future-proofed application, enabling for changes in the inspection of engine builds.