Modern Machine Shop

JAN 2018

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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MMS JANUARY 2018 80 ROBOTIC LOADING without increasing the number of employees. "It's about using people more efficiently," he says. And while he says that the employees were uncertain about the automation system at first, "they bought right into it" when they saw how easy it is to use. Kilgore Manufacturing | 260-248-2002 | Halter | 800-314-8261 | FANUC | 800-326-8287 | Okuma | 704-588-7000 | DMG MORI | 847-593-5400 | Schunk | 800-772-4865 | Owner John Hicks has implemented three Halter systems so far at his shop. He says that the process improvements and capacity increases have been significant enough that he has plans to purchase a fourth system. • Improved quality. Mr. Hicks also credits the system with improving the quality of the parts the shop produces. Even with operators running more machines than before, they still have more time to do quality checks. • More jobs from existing customers. Mr. Hicks adds that Kilgore has seen growth with its existing customers because of the shop's increased capacity. • Saved floor space. "We're pretty tight on square footage," he says, noting that the dedicated automation cell consumes a significant amount of floor space because of the required fencing around it. However, the LoadAssistant can be set to move slowly enough that it does not require fencing to protect workers. A sensor slows the robot further and eventually stops it if people come too close. (Faster speed is also an option, in which case fencing would be needed, he says.) According to Mr. Hicks, the three Halter automa- tion systems the shop has purchased so far have been so successful in increasing its capacity that he expects to see the investment pay for itself within a year. He has plans to buy another early this year for use with another of Kilgore's Okuma single-turret lathes, and he hopes to be able to use the programmed cycles of the new system to include stops for deburring, and for reorienting and reloading parts for two-sided machining. This system now enables one operator to run three or four machines at once instead of one or two. Benefits Beyond Increased Capacity Kilgore has discovered that the LoadAssistant adaptable loading system has led to some ben- efits for the shop beyond meeting its goal of increased capacity. These include: • Enabling the shop to be more competitive with its prices. The system's predictability has enabled Kilgore to quote lower prices for customers. Before implementing the system, the shop built buffer time into its quotes to account for time that employees could not be at the machine. The automation system makes job scheduling more predictable, so such buffer time does not need to be included.

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