Manual work stations in the financial crisis

Manual work stations in the financial crisis
(PresseBox) ( Amberg, )
The German machine building industry has been badly affected by the global economic crisis. Despite the slight lift in spirits in Germany's economy, which was reflected in the Ifo Business Climate Index at the beginning of the year, order rates in the industrial goods industry are unsteady. Pessimists anticipate not only a decline in exports, but also a slump in production investments at home. Reduced workloads on existing equipment and machines are an additional concern to those in positions of responsibility. Work places are in danger. However, within the crisis there is also opportunity. There is a recognisable trend in systems technology which moves away from large fully automated machines and leans towards variable manual systems.

According to the January survey of the Munich Ifo Institute for Economic Research, approximately 7000 companies reported increased business expectations in comparison to last month. However, in these times of economic uncertainty large capital investments are avoided. Instead, the industry is concentrating on manually loaded "single cell solutions" or "smart work benches". The company DEPRAG SCHULZ GMBH & CO, specialists for automation, air tools and screwdriving technology based in Amberg, Germany, have also observed this development. "We have registered an increased demand for operator based systems in particular", confirmed Sales Manager Jürgen Hierold.

The processing reliability of the manual "smart work benches" is just as secure as that of automated production. Even with alternating operators, well-prepared production does not present any processing difficulties. The automation experts DEPRAG equip their manual work stations with EC or EC-Servo screwdrivers and sequence controllers from their standard programme. These EC screwdrivers enable free programming of the screw parameters. Within the performance range of each spindle torque, speed, waiting period and rotational direction can be individually customised to the screw assembly task. Varied torque parameters can be set for several screw positions in one cycle when using manoeuvrable spindles. Integrated torque and angle recording allows precise control of the screw parameters as well as documentation of important processing parameters.

The addition of a DEPRAG position controller ensures additional processing reliability. This controller coordinates the entire production process. The sequential order of the various screw parameters can occasionally play a vital role for processing reliability when assembling several screws on one component. An "intelligent" position control stand supervises the procedure. Screws can only be assembled if the operator has followed the correct order.

The position controller governs all manual procedures. This includes such functions as clamping and locking work pieces, automatic feeding of joining elements and activating measurement functions. The complete assembly sequence, including all measurement data ascertained, is processed in the controller module. This enables such actions as the opening of receiver equipment for part removal, printer activation or data transfer of assembly results.

Manual work stations such as the DEPRAG "smart work benches" consist of standardised components which can be chosen from a wide selection and tailored to the customer's requirements. They provide a low-cost answer to market challenges in periods of stagnation and economic crisis. Equally effective is the use of so-called "single cell solutions" - assembly cells which can either be loaded manually or with an automatic loading mechanism. In times when order volumes are unstable, small assembly cells enable flexibility and adaption in production. Fully automated systems are inflexible. Low production rates generate expensive surplus capacities. When demand is high however, large systems working at capacity may not be able to manage the required quantities.

The automation specialists DEPRAG SCHULZ GMBH & CO. are superbly equipped to meet the ever-changing demands of the market. Apart from fully automated assembly systems and standardised manual work stations, they also manufacture compact, extremely flexible, "stand-alone assembly cells". These are known as DCAMs (DEPRAG COMPACT ASSEMBLY MODULES). At the Automatica trade fair 2008, amongst other innovations DEPRAG presented their new DCAM-XS the smallest member of the DCAM-family. This micro assembly machine has extremely small dimensions (450 x 802 x 680 millimetres) and the module's fast changeover time of under a minute is unparalleled. The pick position of feeders or process modules can be changed without additional readjustments. The assembly unit is also renowned for its quick changeover times for bits or screwdriving modules. The conversion of a "pick & place" feeder to a "blow-feeding system" is effortless.

The entire DCAM product group of "stand-alone assembly cells" combines top efficiency with the best possible processing reliability. Numerous companies, which assemble electronic parts, have voiced their appreciation of these flexible assembly machines. Countless small components must be assembled when manufacturing equipment such as razors, electric toothbrushes, digital cameras, navigation systems or other electronic systems for cars. This of course is also the case for the production of mobile telephones.

Each DCAM can assemble up to tens of thousands of mobile phones per day and there are hundreds in use all over the world. Whether equipped with a linear transfer assembly line or a rotary indexing table, these systems combine the fastest assembly cycles with the highest flexibility. The DCAM assembly cells designed for mobile phone manufacturers are predominately based on multi-spindle concepts. A four spindle DCAM, XYZ-programmable and equipped with a rotary indexing table enables a cycle time of 1.6 seconds per 4 screws. Calculating the performance of the machine on the basis of mobile phones with 6 screws results in a three shift production rate of 36,000 mobile phones! Whilst assembling screws, the system also automatically checks all assembly related quality control issues. This includes testing for screw presence, screw depth and torque and angle values. Errors are displayed on an interface module and must be acknowledged and reset before the system is approved for the next assembly cycle.

Flexibility can be decisive for economic success in times of crisis. High investment costs and long amortisation periods are associated with fully automated large systems. Whereas by using small flexible assembly systems the amount of operators can be adjusted to correspond with production rates. Costs are proportional to demand and the quality of the product does not suffer. The conversion to these "intelligent" production systems, such as the DEPRAG manual work stations or the DCAM assembly machines guarantees continued high standards of process reliability.
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