Meeting the demands of your customers’ orders without having to worry about operator shortages is where press brake automation technology can really make a difference in productivity. It also can generate additional revenue.
Finding Qualified Operators
So what does a fabricator do when they can’t find press brake operators to run their equipment, or for that matter, find enough of them to run multiple shifts? Purchasing additional press brakes to meet production demands does not make sense if you can’t find operators to run them. So how do you find your next press brake operator?
Recent developments in press brake automation technology that specifically focuses on easier set-up and programming have enabled press brake automation to be more commonly used to manage day-to-day production needs. Offline programming and simulation are now commonplace. Gone are the days of pendant teaching a robot at the machine for each job. Offline programming has even evolved to the point where the entire robot program can be generated automatically and checked for collisions before it even reaches the production floor. Once it does reach the press brake machine, the first piece of the production run is operated at reduced speed to prove-out the program. After a quick verification of part dimensions, the machine is then approved to continue operating automatically at normal speed.
In earlier offline programming systems, what used to take 30 minutes to accomplish now takes only 5 minutes with modern offline programming systems. The time to create a basic robot bending program is now almost synonymous with the time it takes to create flat part nests. With offline programming, you now have a system that can quickly program parts based on the layout of the bending cell, and you have now created a program for the cell that does not require manual pendant programming at the machine. In this process, you have created greater capacity due to reduced set-up time and increased machine availability, greater productivity and increased revenue overall.
What about operations? Well, that’s where the benefits of press brake automation are really evident. If bending robots are utilized to handle the repetitive tasks of bending, and the bending know-how now resides within the press brake controls and the offline programming system, then you have solved many of your issues in finding qualified operators. You have now created a consistent method of meeting bending demands regardless of operator shortages. In the case of new mobile bending robot systems that can be connected directly to a press brake within 10 minutes, the flexibility to run in off-shifts or over long weekends greatly increases productivity, efficiency, capacity, and revenue. For dedicated fixed press brake automation systems, the ease and simplicity of modern offline programming systems greatly lower the threshold of piece quantities where it now makes sense to use automation.
The new status quo
For overall productivity and flexibility, adding robot press brake automation and offline programming greatly changes the status quo. There is no longer the need to have an operator for each press brake machine, but rather one operator for multiple cells. The machines will no longer sit idle during meal brakes, lavatory breaks, and shift changes. You no longer need to be concerned about operators calling in sick for prolonged periods. Further, operator fatigue will no longer be a variable with regard to how productive or efficient they are on any given day. A single press brake operator can now manage multiple bending cells, keeping the materials supplied and tending to quality control for each cell.
Investing in modern press brakes and bending automation technologies greatly reduces the number of press brakes and press brake operators required to fulfill production demands. With increased productivity, efficiency, and capacity, higher revenue and profits can be realized.
By Frank Arteaga, Head of Product Marketing, Bystronic Inc., Hoffman Estates, IL