ENDUTEC MASCHINENBAU SYSTEMTECHNIK GMBH:
“OUR COBOT OPERATES AROUND THE CLOCK TO MEET TIGHTER DELIVERY SCHEDULES“
Endutec GmbH is a special machine manufacturer with its own design office and 14 employees. The company from Chieming am Chiemsee in Germany is also a Certified System Integrator of Universal Robots. Managing director Andreas Flieher talked to us about how Endutec is coping with the COVID-19 crisis.
Tell us how you run your production today vs. before the pandemic?
Two years ago we started to automate parts of our production with a UR10e cobot. The main drivers for that decision were that we wanted to achive the fullest possible utilization of our machine capacity while also addressing the shortage of skilled workers. We are always desperately looking for qualified employees. Therefore, we plan to automate as many simple tasks as possible in order to be able to use our staff for higher-value tasks. In spite of COVID-19, our production runs almost as usual – with the difference that before the pandemic our full team was physically present at the company. Some of the employees wrote CNC programs on site while the others worked on the machines on the shop floor. Currently, half of the employees write the programs from home, upload them to the company server, whereafter employees on-site retreieve the programs and run them on the machines via the cobot.
How are you protecting your employees? What types of Personal Protective Equipment are they wearing (if deemed necessary)? Did you have to restructure your production line to minimize contagion risks?
We have already worked with face masks to some extent before, as certain production activities require this. In addition, we have provided several options for hand disinfection not only in the washrooms but also in our production. We address the social distancing guidelines by having only some of our employees on site and the rest working from home.
“About half of the employees are currently writing the CNC programs from home. This allows us to maintain the minimum distance in production,” says Andreas Flieher, Managing Director, Endutec GmbH
How do you communicate necessary production changes to your workforce?
Actually, there are no big changes in production – just a small thing: Before COVID-19, shop floor production orders from the ERP system were distributed around the company in paper form. Now the employees receive the production order as PDF in an e-mail.
How has your supply chain been impacted? What have you done to mitigate this? – e.g. have you had to re-engineer some of your products?
Fortunately, very little has changed for us. Sometimes we receive the parts necessary for our production from our suppliers in Austria slightly delayed, but this does not cause any difficulties. After all, we operate as a contract manufacturer, among other things, so we are naturally very agile and continue to receive product specifications from our customers and manufacture them according to their requirements.
Are you relying more on automation now than before? Or, is automation helping you in new and unexpected ways?
Even before COVID-19, it was clear to us that we needed to check each process step to determine if automating the step is possible. If yes, we want to automate it. In addition to the lack of skilled workers, the price pressure we are under as a contract manufacturer is also decisive. Every hour that we make better use of our facilities helps us to remain competitive.
Currently, automation helps us even more than before – even before COVID-19, delivery times were very spotty. This has now become even worse: Many of our customers work in their home offices or work reduced hours. As a result, they no longer have full and permanent access to their data and this can cause delay in their orders. Yet our delivery remains the same. Instead of a delivery time of three or four weeks, it is currently only two weeks in some cases. That is very tight, but thanks to the cobot we make it as it runs through the night and also on weekends.
This case study documents how the UR10e cobot enabled Endutec to set up a two-shift operation, utilizing its machines to full capacity.
How do you make sure your products reach the end customers on time?
The robot is used as much as possible to produce the same quantity of parts as before in less time.
How do you think this crisis will shape your company going forward? What are some of the lessons learned?
For us, the crisis has shown that the time and money we invested in automation has more than paid off. I am convinced that other small and medium-sized companies will now also increasingly rely on robot technology to prepare themselves for the future. As a system integrator of Universal Robots, we can already see this: One of our customers, for example, is using the free time he has available as a result of short-time work and lower capacity utilization to install an automation solution to be ready for the upcoming increase.
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