Optimizing productivity for local robotics company

A local robotics company has seen their assembly times cut in half and has experienced a “drastic” reduction in rework and quality issues. This is thanks to an engineering productivity assessment completed by Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC).

St. Catharines-based Factory Surplus Direct (FSD) is a source for automation and robotics parts and service. They are a global leader in supplying advanced automation and robotics parts and services with a team of engineering professionals.

When FSD was experiencing difficulties keeping up with the demand for their rebuilt robot cable harnesses and needed to improve productivity, they approached WAMIC, part of NC’s Research & Innovation division. 

The productivity assessment for FSD’s cable harness build laboratory started with an in-depth analysis in order to outline productivity improvements to reduce the time required to complete the refurbishment of robot cable harnesses, says Angela Naar, industrial engineer and research & industry liaison at WAMIC.

By improving their productivity and standardization with the cable harness rebuild process, it allows FSD to reduce their lead time, facilitate the expansion of their production process, and enables employees with a more diverse skill-set to complete their tasks successfully, explains Naar.

“Execution of the recommendations will allow FSD to increase productivity and ensure product quality, visually manage inventory, and provide flexibility in the skills future employees will require,” says Naar.

In recommending a documented standard process flow for the cable lab at FSD, the WAMIC research team conducted a review of the current process to help define the desired steps in the overall process and segregated the overall process into specific tasks for standardization.

These included such critical steps as having check sheets for identified tasks, processing documentation, tracking of employee skills, colour-coding storage areas, creating tool requirement lists – all things to help define the physical layout and work-station design needed to absorb business growth, as well as the addition of new employees.

“Essentially, the College helped us streamline and modify our manufacturing process to increase overall efficiency while allowing for multiple quality control measures to increase product reliability,” says FSD Robotics president Dave Burgess.

“They showed us areas of waste with regards to ergonomics, movement of assemblies, pre-process work and storage of supplies and tools,” he adds. “Assembly times have been cut in half, and we have already seen a drastic reduction in rework and quality issues.”

This project was funded by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), which provides up to 20 hours of access to the equipment, facilities, and expertise of a Technology Access Centre (TAC) to solve a specific business or technical challenge.

This is one example of the types of technical services offered at WAMIC lab. To discover other resources and capabilities, visit the website.