Robotic Welding, why it makes sense, what it means for people

The global technological climate has embraced robotic assisted manufacturing with open arms. Autonomous robotic processes such as multifaceted welding are now mainstream with improvements and new scale applications evolving at a rapid pace. With much greater proliferation of the technology, economies of scale previously reserved for mega-manufacturing corporations can be enjoyed by smaller niche producers of fabricated assemblies world wide. This filter down effect is serving to reduce total operating and production costs for improved margins and drive a more competitive market.

There are many reasons that from an overall advancement perspective robotic manufacturing makes sense, however of course unforeseen problems are generated too. We will highlight several of the various pros and cons to the technology for you in this opinion article.

Productivity – Typically robotic welding systems can work 4 times faster than the equivalent technician due to continuous operation with very limited downtime due to maintenance. That said when systems are down due to any one of a number of issues the entire production line can stop as typically facilities and staffing for skilled human backup have been removed all together.

Consistency & Quality – Due to very high degrees of programmability where spatial parameters can be set without variation, processing errors are massively reduced. Units or products will leave the facility and be identical to both past or future items, therefore customers will fully understand the performance that can be achieved. The responsibility for a quality input however moves further back in the production line. Now the drawings and coding for the tooling need to be perfect as there are fewer skilled machinists that can use intuition to fix minor design mistakes as they go.

Safety – Of course reducing the human factor element in heavy manufacturing also greatly reduces the risk profile of production. Hazardous tasks that are taken on by robots means that directly related work place accidents are cut by up to 70%.

Labour – Professions in manufacturing are not as sought after as they used to be, as such finding skilled labor is complex and can be costly when dealing with significant training regimes or strain from labour unions. Robots reduce the need for certain jobs, however quite often create a need for others. Fully customized products will still always need management by expert technicians as total programing for this can be hard. Quite often a very important symbiotic relationship is reached by leveraging the high speed mass production capacities of robots, with the intricate craftsmanship of skilled labour. The demand for a younger generation of candidates that have learnt how to code or teach the robots how to perform new complex tasks. This supports the notion that robots will not be taking over in the near term and that jobs will transition from one form to the next but not be lost entirely.

From TBDs perspective we will always be investing in new technology that allows us to streamline our production and better serve our customer base with high quality products. We are also committed to investing in our staff to ensure they can meet the challenges that these new methodologies bring now and well into the future.