Fitzpatrick Manufacturing increases efficiency with Sawyer cobot

Wednesday July 04, 2018
Written by Manufacturing AUTOMATION
Jul. 4, 2018 - Fitzpatrick Manufacturing, a CNC machine shop and custom manufacturer, deployed Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer collaborative robot at its Sterling Heights, Mich., facility to increase operational efficiency.

Founded in 1952, Fitzpatrick Manufacturing supplies parts to more than a dozen sectors, including aerospace, automotive, medical equipment and oil and gas.

In the Fitzpatrick Manufacturing facility, Sawyer helps hone parts that become components for the motion control industry, which requires precise tolerance and repetitive action. Sawyer identifies which part to run first – short versus long – and loads it into the honing machine. When the first part is finished, Sawyer removes it, loads a second part into the machine and places the first part in the wash station. From there, Sawyer dries the part at the air blow station before packaging it in a box for shipment. With 400 spots on the pin board to process, Sawyer can package between 280 and 300 before a human worker needs to intervene. This process could take five to eight hours, which allows Sawyer to run overnight, lights out, and have all the parts ready to go when workers arrive back at the facility.

“We were very deliberate about finding the right job for Sawyer,” said Kevin LaComb, co-president at Fitzpatrick Manufacturing. “This is the first time we’ve deployed advanced automation. In job shops, it’s hard to predict what project will come in. With Sawyer’s adaptability, we can automate the repetitive, mundane jobs and free up human workers for more skilled, higher value tasks.”

The majority of Fitzpatrick’s employees have been around for years, and introducing Sawyer was initially met with uncertainty on the floor, explains the company.

“At first, there was some hesitation around Sawyer’s deployment,” said Jon Mutz, team leader at Fitzpatrick Manufacturing. “The older generation was a little unsure of the new technology, while the younger group was excited. Once the team realized Sawyer wasn’t here to take their jobs, but rather help them do their jobs better and give them opportunities for more rewarding work, there was universal acceptance of and appreciation for Sawyer.”

Rethink Robotics’ collaborative robots aim to transform the way work gets done in manufacturing and distribution operations. Powered by the Intera software platform, its Sawyer and Baxter cobots can be trained and on the job in a matter of hours and are designed to work safely alongside people.

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