Production efficiencies can be improved if bottlenecks are minimized in the production cycle. It is common for bottlenecks to occur in the press brake stage but by adding automation, stress can be alleviated and productivity increased. Bottlenecks occur in the bending stage because it is difficult to find experienced and skilled press brake operators.
Instead of adding more press brakes, metal fabrication shops must improve production performance. One of the solutions that fabricators are considering is the integration of automation into the bending process. Automation can maintain consistent quality in varying batch sizes but limited quantities. Factors that can influence the decision to move to automation will be labour cost, availability of skilled labour in the shop floor, scarcity of skilled press brake operators and the need for productivity and profitability.
Buying new equipment like a press brake can enhance production in the shop floor but fabrication shops must ensure that they gain value from the investment. The shop will not benefit if the machine remains idle because of the shortage of workers and job incompatibility. With automation, shops can produce better results.
There are two types of automation that can be integrated on press brakes – hard automation and flexible automation. Generally, fabricators turn to automation when there is a need to bend large quantities but when different jobs and part sizes are integrated, the cells can be quite challenging and expensive to reconfigure. Some parts are not robot-friendly particularly if they are too small or too large for the robot to handle.
Flexible automation is a better choice because it allows the shop to remain agile at all times. There are systems that enable a press brake for both manual and automated operations. Automation can be plugged into the machine when needed and unplugged if there is a need to run manually.
With an automated press brake, the fabrication shop’s unique needs can be easily met. There are many options to choose from to overcome productivity problems by adding automated accessories that will suit the bending operation. Aside from minimizing bottlenecks at the bending stage, the whole production process can be streamlined.