Collaborative Robot Arms Increase Run Rates

By adding a UR5 to their production setup RSS increased the production speed significantly and also opened up 30% more capacity on existing machinery.

The Challenge

California-based RSS Manufacturing and Phylrich, who manufacture plumbing fixtures and fittings for faucets, needed to meet a new monthly order of 700 valves. Their CNC machine was able to produce 400 valves per month with two shifts – so even if they put a third shift on it still wouldn’t be sufficient to meet the target.

Instead of buying another CNC machine RSS decided to search the market for robotic arms. The solution, however, would have to match RSS’ highly specialized short-run production facility with turnaround time as quick as 24 hours.

The Solution

RSS’ many demands were met by a UR5. The robotic arm was put to work 24/7 and within 11 days the order of 700 valves was ready to be shipped off. And this was only the first step towards optimising the production. When the UR5 was deployed to feed tubes into a mandrel tube bender, the RSS team was in for a surprise.

“We had not expected the robot to be able to operate so fast. It pushed the limits of the mandrel bender so much that hydraulics in the bender overheated and started to malfunction”, says Escalette. “But it did produce 1500 pieces in four hours. It would have taken us two to three days to accomplish with manual labour. Now we have optimised the bender to keep up with the robot”.

The master plan of RSS was to be competitive with overseas manufacturers and bring back manufacturing jobs to the US. And the UR5 has contributed significantly to this plan. Not only does the robotic arm make it possible to increase production speed without buying additional CNC machines. The UR5 has also opened up 30% more capacity on existing machinery.

“In a flexible environment like this, you need a flexible robot. One that can work without safety cages, one that is portable and one that can be reprogrammed quickly.” Geoff Escolette, CEO

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