Founded in 1947, German-based manufacturer Hailo is a leading supplier of ladder systems, steps and waste bins for both businesses and consumers. The company uses three collaborative robots from Universal Robots to relieve its employees of strenuous activities while guaranteeing high product standards.
The company has deployed a UR5 to attach operating instructions and accessories to stepladders, and a UR10 and a UR10e to feed sheet metal bodies to die-cutting machines. The modern cobot technology ensures cost-optimized production and supports the medium-sized company in sustaining its leading position on the market.
For two years now, stepladders have had to be provided with operating instructions. This change in standards prompted Hailo to redesign the ladder manufacturing process. Facing a shortage of skilled labor, Hailo did not consider attaching the brochures by hand, instead the company endeavours to delegate more physically demanding, repetitive work to machines, offering employees more interesting tasks that promise higher added value.
Since the facility in which the ladders are produced offers little space, Meik Schmidt, Production Manager at the plant in Haiger, and Process Manager Heinz Hild were looking for a compact automation solution that would be easy to integrate into the production line. Through trade fairs and magazines, the two men became aware of collaborative robotics that allows for a safe coexistence of man and machine.
After examining several suppliers, Hailo opted for the UR5. “We were particularly impressed by the low space consumption of the collaborative robots from UR,” said Hild. “Once the risk assessment has been successfully completed, they can directly work together with the colleagues on the production line without being separated from them by protective fences. Their ease of use and the wide range of applications were additional plus factors for Hailo.
Together with the UR partner MS Electronics GmbH, Hailo developed an application with a UR5 cobot. It places up to 1,100 operating instructions per eight-hour shift onto pre-assembled stepladders before they are packed and taken to the warehouse.
The UR5 is positioned directly next to a conveyor belt. As soon as a ladder is approaching on the belt, the cobot picks up a booklet from a magazine with a vacuum gripper. It moves it to a hot glue gun applying adhesive and finally affixes it with light pressure to one of the steps of the ladder. Other ladder models are equipped by the UR5 with accessory cartons which are clamped to the ladders.
Hailo commissioned the development of two additional UR cobot applications in two of its plants manufacturing waste bins. At the plants, one UR10 and one UR10e each handle painted sheet metal cylinders. The two cobots pick up the blanks with a double gripper specially designed for Hailo. They place them in die-cutting machines where holes are stamped into the cylinders.
The implementation of the two applications was challenging. “We had to coordinate the feeding of several die-cutting machines and make sure that the painting of the sheet metal parts was not damaged during handling,” said Marc Straußfeld, owner and managing director of MS Electronics.
Case Study at a Glance
|Challenge: freeing employees from stressful, repetitive work; automating tasks in constrained spaces;|
|Partner: Universal Robots|
|Robot: UR5, UR10, UR10e|
|Task: machine tending, material handling, welding|
|Results: shifting employees to higher-value tasks; cost-optimized production; quality assurance|
Results for Hailo
The decision to use collaborative robotics has paid off for Hailo in every respect. Instead of laboriously inserting the sheet metal bodies into the die-cutting machines by hand, as was the case in the past, the employees today just have to ensure sufficient stock of parts and monitor the production process. They can take on more demanding tasks in the final assembly or other departments.
Due to the smooth implementation of the UR5 and the rapid amortization of the acquisition costs, the cobot paid itself back in less than a year.
“At Hailo, the robots from UR are now a natural part of the team,” said Schmidt. “Thanks to their high repeat accuracy, we maintain our high product standards and the trust in the Hailo brand – because we make no compromises in quality and safety.”