CNH Industrial improves balance between welding robot and operator

With more than 35 years of experience in welding robotization, the agricultural machinery manufacturer CNH Industrial has witnessed the technological evolution from the pioneering phase. Despite the far-reaching automation in the production department MBU3 (welding shop) of the Belgian plant, the managers still see potential in efficiency improvement. To this end, CNH Industrial is taking the next step in the 'World Class Manufacturing' program in the welding department. In this project, CNH Industrial approaches production in a different way, eliminating waiting times, reducing inventories and greatly improving the balance between the robot and operator.

CNH Industrial

Evolution in welding robot technology

A thorough market research, more than 20 years ago, was the start of a long term collaboration between CNH Industrial and Valk Welding. Since then, 20 Panasonic welding robots have been installed, spread over 4 generations. The first of these are still in use. "Despite the fact that there are no problems, the spare parts are still available (through Valk Welding) and the quality is still good, they are on the nomination to be replaced," says Thomas De Paepe, head of manufacturing engineering welding.

When choosing Valk Welding as preferred supplier for the welding robot automation, the possibilities of offline programming were decisive for CNH Industrial at that time. "Valk Welding was the only one at the time who could realize that", reminds Bart Dedeurwaerder, manufacturing engineer welding and robot specialist "Where we could only make the welding moulds when all parts had been developed, we could do that with the DTPS offline programming software during the engineering phase. This allowed us to reduce time-to-market by 6 months with the introduction of a new model. In the meantime, with both DTPS and robot control, we are a few generations further down the line, which has greatly simplified programming and given us more control over the welding process".

Bart Dedeurwaerder: "Less space required, less waiting times, ergonomically more favourable and a better balance, thanks to World Class Manufacturing".

CNH Industrial

What more can you do?

In addition to the question of which parts you could robot-weld, the managers also took a critical look at the production. "If we want to remain competitive, you must not only focus on the technology, but also look at the way you organize production," Thomas De Paepe emphasizes. "We produce in stock, so that the products are ready for assembly on time. Then you have to deal with waiting times. You could eliminate them. We also looked at the non-productive hours during which the operator waits for the welding robot. During that time, the operator could also weld part of the product manually," explains Thomas De Paepe. "This way, we are constantly looking for the optimum balance.

Looking for the balance

"Our task is also to make an x-number of products per day. It's not about more pieces per day, but about flexibility. Does the operator have to be flexible or the robot? What does the welding robot deliver per hour per m2? In addition to the welding robot, can the operator also weld manually? Where is the balance? Those are the questions we asked ourselves within the concept of 'World Class Manufacturing'? We map out the 'losses' and work continuously on improving the production process.

To this end, we have set up a new cell where the CA drum is completely produced. In a 'one piece flow' concept, the work pieces are immediately taken over by the next production step, so there are no more waiting times. Because the employees do both the welding, as well as the balancing, weighing and disassembling, the complete part can go straight through to the final assembly". Advantages: less space required, fewer waiting times, more ergonomic and better balance because the operator of the welding robot in the meantime welds a part manually", explains the engineer.

MIS next step

"As part of rolling out Industrie 4.0 in the welding industry, we also want to have more control over the maintenance of the welding robots. To achieve this, we need to collect all the data so that you can visualize the state of the robots, both technically and in terms of performance. With Valk Welding's Management Information System (MIS) we can give substance to this. Step by step, we get more and more control over the production," according to colleagues Bart Dedeurwaerder and Geoffrey Geldhof.

CNH Industrial draws the map of automation. Witness to this is the purchase of 2 new robot cells, the first of which will be installed this year. The second cell is expected in February 2021. CNH Industrial is ready for the future and continues to invest.

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