As a high-mix, low-volume manufacturer, Scott Fetzer Electrical Group (SFEG) in Fairview, Tennessee, struggled to be competitive on a global scale while taking advantage of existing machinery. Today, the manufacturer of electrical motors and components employs a mobile fleet of Universal Robots' collaborative robots to solve ever-changing tasks with high-mix, low-volume, which have optimized production by 20% and improved worker safety.

“We wanted to build a mobile, flexible robot force. The only way we would accomplish this was with a collaborative robot,” said Matthew Bush, Director of Operations at SFEG. “We only saw a couple of offerings, and the UR robot was the only robot that we thought could do the job. It’s got the speed and precision of a standard industrial robot with the ability to move around and work next to humans.”

Bush continued, “we want to have robots standing by, waiting for a job to do. When the staff arrives in the morning, we’ll have work-orders printed for employees to wheel the robots over to the tasks at hand that day.”

SFEG’s fleet of UR robots on pedestals with wheels now handle multiple tasks including picking-and-placing motors, trimming wires (16,000 per day!), filling epoxy into circuit boards and performing life cycle testing.

The fact that the UR robots are re-deployable and can operate with no safety guarding right next to humans is a radical break-away from a traditional industrial robot that usually stays hardwired behind safety guarding, fenced off from people. The UR robots are a new type of robot classified as collaborative due to their interactive design that makes it easy to set them up for a new task, as well as their built-in safety system that enables the robot arm to automatically stop operating if it encounters objects or people in its route.

General Manager Rob Goldiez explains how productivity and consistency on lines with UR robots improved: “Before we had the Universal Robots on our transformer line, we averaged about 10 parts per person per hour, that’s up to 12 parts per person per hour now, so about a 20% increase having a pace setter with the Universal Robots working hand in hand with our people.”

The wire cutting UR5 robot working in tandem with the UR10 has been embraced by the staff that named the new robotic team “Thelma and Louise.” According to Line Lead Sebrina Thompson, the naming arose when personnel first thought the robots were driving them off a cliff. “When the robots first came out on the floor, employees were very anxious as they thought they would be replaced. But the robots handle a lot of tedious tasks for us, enabling us to focus on more challenging jobs. Now my colleagues are constantly trying to find out where we can put the next robots,” says the line lead, who also enjoys operating the UR robots.