Relicomp invests an annual MEUR1 in developing its operations. The demand that increased heavily last year is an excellent starting point for the next big investment – a second FMS robot welding cell. The new welding cell will not only improve work ergonomics and safety, but also increase the flexibility in terms of capacity: once the cell has been deployed, the production capacity of the welding shop can be doubled as needed.
“We are constantly cooperating closely with our customers. When a customer has growth prospects, we will absolutely do our part as a subcontractor to enable the growth of the customer and Relicomp alike. We are not averse to making sizeable investments,” says Production Manager Tero Syrjälä.
In accordance with the procurement contract, Vesmes Oy will supply Relicomp with the FMS line, whereas ABB Robotics Oy will provide the positioner, robot unit and power source. We will be dedicating a separate project group to the procurement process to ensure adherence to the schedule and prevent interruptions in production or customer operations.
The investment in another welding cell is a natural step not only because of the increased production but also because our needs and wishes regarding the new robot cell are now very clearly defined.
“It is obviously important to calculate how quickly an investment will pay itself back. This automation purchase was an easy investment in the sense that we already had such good experiences with our current robot. It has also been developed further to meet our production needs. In conjunction with this change, we will be updating the old welding robot to the level of the new one in order to improve its efficiency,” Tero says with regard to the procurement decision.
The second robot prevents stoppages, improves ergonomics and makes production more flexible
The utilisation rate of the welding cell purchased in 2018 reached an astounding 92% in 2021. It has reduced heavy manual labour and the physical strain of the welders significantly. The goals for the new cell are at the same level. With two cells, production can also be maintained by using only one of the robots, if needed, as both utilise the same software. This will keep production rolling even if one of the robots has to be stopped due to maintenance, for example.
The new FMS cell can be ramped up quickly, since Relicomp already has plenty of experience in similar robotics solutions and their modern features, such as seam tracking and RFID systems. The welding equipment is once again from Fronius, as the company’s solutions have helped to significantly reduce the amount of finishing work. The diverse features of the Fronius machines enable welding using a variety of arc types to achieve results that hold up to even the toughest scrutiny.
“Among other features, the new welding cell will include rising and lowering platforms, as strongly requested by our staff. They will improve ergonomics and safety, in particular. The cell will include a 3-axis positioner that can handle all kinds of work pieces up to 2,000 kg and a 3-metre diameter. Like the current cell, the new one can handle individual pieces and large series autonomously. Most of the programming is already conducted remotely, and we only need to physically check that everything works as planned,” Tero explains.
According to Tero, the experiences and views of the staff have been indispensable in the work efforts:
“We have strived to provide our staff with many routes for presenting their development ideas. People can bring up their ideas with the management or their own supervisors, they can use the ERP system, and then there are work-related analyses that are effective in highlighting development needs. Our employees are commendably active in providing ideas. Moreover, we, of course, ask our staff for their views on each project, since they are the professionals who know exactly what needs to be taken into account.”
Minimal production disturbances – construction to take place during the summer outage
The total length of the cell will be 33 metres, and the width with the preparation cell will be 17 metres. The space for the new cell will mainly be secured by streamlining the usage of production space, so only a few extra metres will be needed. The modification work will commence near the summer holiday season in July as production winds down. The final layout also take the needs wishes of the employees into account:
“During the few weeks of summer holiday outage, we will finish the large floor casts and machine installations. This time, we will prepare the machine beds in such a way that enables us to get rid of the work platforms and work at floor level by using adjustable platforms. This was the number-one thing that our staff wanted to change, as it will vastly improve work ergonomics and safety. Scanners will monitor the specified safety areas, so that when a person approaches a critical zone, the robot first slows down and then stops, as necessary,” Tero says with regard to the layout.
Before beginning any major modification work and actual installations, many preparatory tasks must be completed. Two smaller welding robots will be relocated to make way for the new cell, the current FMS track will be dismantled and rebuilt in extended form, the pressurised air lines and electrification solutions need to be changed, and the appropriate installation equipment must be procured. All modification, installation and commissioning work will be completed in July to ensure that they do not cut into production time.
“The goal is to have the new cell fully tested and deployed in August 2022. After the summer holidays as production increase, we will recruit more professionals to enable increased growth,” Production Manager Tero Syrjälä says with a smile.