With a doubling turnover in the past three years, greenhouse manufacturer KUBO from the Westland region in the south-west of the Netherlands faced capacity problems with the production.
“Especially at the welding department, we have reached the maximum amount of manual welders,” head of purchasing department Ger Helderman explains. That is why last year, KUBO switched to robotised welding. Valk Welding delivered 2 identical cells with both 2 working stations of 7.5 m. With that, KUBO took its first steps towards robotised welding production.
Manufacturing Greenhouses is a specialty that has grown to be a successful Dutch export product. Both builder and suppliers of installations for the Greenhouse manufacturing are mainly settled in the Westland, an area in the south west of the Netherlands. KUBO, whose turnkey projects are being sold worldwide, is one of the leading companies in this field. By delivering customer-based solutions quickly, the sales grew from 90 to 170 hectares delivered floor space in 2015-2016. To meet the growing market demand, the company reorganized in 2017, and the production with investments in tube laser, welding robot installations, and digitalization of the work preparation got quite a boost.
Capacity shortage cannot be fixed by temporary workers
KUBO used to profit from a flexible shell in the production. “The problem is that the supply of certified welders is limited, even at employment agencies. That is why we reached our maximum capacity quickly when there was an increase in welding work. You can let a welding robot do repetitive work. In addition, the welding robot will do it without any problem, which means the quality and precision will increase, and the assembly will not be confronted with deviations in the final product. For us, that was an impulse to invite a couple of robot integrators for an orientation. Within our internal project group, we all had the best feeling with Valk Welding. The know-how, the Panasonic robots which are specifically developed for robot welding, the offline programming DTPS comined with the adaptations of Valk Welding, in short: the whole setting was right,” Ger Helderman explains.
Using robot requires closer tolerances
“We knew what we wanted and Valk Welding made that into a clear concept, consisting of two robotic cells placed backwards against each other. We soon discovered that the realisation of the fixtures would be a whole different story, which eventually cost more than we budgeted. In addition, welding with a robot requires closer tolerances than we were used to. We used to not care about 1 mm, which was easily fixable for a manual welder. Tubes which we used to with plasma, turned out to not be precise enough for the robot. We solved that with the investment in the tube laser.”
“Take your time to get used to the technique”
The commissioning turns out to have quite an impact on both the employees and the logistics. Helderman continues: “We have been using the welding robot installation for half a year and we are still in the middle of the conversion from manual to digital. We are dealing with manual welders that now have to program a robot. That is a learning process you need to take your time for. We expect to be needing about another year to rearrange everything both logistics, production, and work preparation.”
By moving the expedition to a location somewhere else in the business park, there is more space for further expansion and a spot for the welding robots. Both welding robot installations are equipped with two working stations. With that, a large capacity expansion is realised, which can accommodate the expansion for now. “We now weld tubes and pull rods with the welding robots. The duration of one cycle is considerably shorter now that we weld them with the robots. Therefore, we can switch quicker with the planning. Another plus is that dimensional errors do not occur anymore with the welding robots. Before, a weld would be incidentally skipped and it had to be fixed within the work itself. That does not happen anymore, according to Helderman.”
Trusses next project
“Last year, we processed 9,000 tons of galvanized steel with a large part of welding on it. We are mainly talking about tubes and trusses. Also for the trusses that are still being cut and punched, the tolerances are too broad for the welding robots. “By cutting and shortening those with the tube welder as well, they can also be used by the welding robot. But we will only get there when we optimized the whole process change. With the help of Valk Welding, we take big steps towards optimization, Ger Helderman concludes.
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