How Westec Plastics is using cobots to add capabilities

Cobots have officially joined Westec, but unlike the science fiction stories, they aren’t here to steal jobs or take over the world, but rather these collaborative robots, or cobots, are here to help by working alongside our employees. With two cobots already active, Westec Plastics has quickly added automation capabilities.

How Cobots Help Westec

Westec saw the opportunity to utilize existing and emerging technologies to increase our automation capabilities through the addition of cobots. With cobots, we are able to:

  • Become more cost-competitive
  • Continuously expand our technology and services
  • Increase efficiencies and throughput
  • Free operators to perform more difficult, value add tasks not suitable for cobots

Having cobots join our team has helped us to continue to optimize our process, allowing for increased productivity. Our cobots represent our commitment to growth in our capabilities and investment in technology. Cobots are suitable for both low-medium volume applications, which involve frequent set-ups and line changeovers, as well as high-volume dedicated production applications.

“The cobots allow Westec the flexibility and opportunity to better utilize our operators for value add services,” said Westec Plastics President, Tammy Barras. “The cobots also have increased efficiencies on programs where they are deployed, and they have allowed Westec to win additional programs by reducing our overall labor content.”

With the ability to be universally adaptable for our manufacturing needs, cobots provide many possibilities for Westec, as we continue to look to advance.

Making Partnerships Successful

Useful for their ability to be programmed to complete a wide range of manufacturing tasks, cobots are not intended to eliminate anyone’s position. Their purpose is to support our employees, often providing assistance where needed. Cobots also are more adaptable and cost-effective compared to the larger industrial robots.

Westec’s strategy was to search for a partner to help us add automation, not only to satisfy our needs now but to also provide flexibility with our ever-changing demands. Rapid Robotics, an industrial automation provider that focuses on delivering solutions to make simple tasks easy to automate, was the perfect fit as they are different than typical automation specialists.

“Rapid Robotics is not a systems integrator; we provide a technology solution in the form of a robotic arm that is pre-programmed to know how to perform numerous simple tasks,” said

Jordan Kretchmer, CEO Rapid Robotics. “Our solution can be deployed to execute basic, repetitive tasks freeing up operator resources to focus on more complex tasks.”

This partnership has been mutually beneficial, as it has not only helped Westec grow, but also has helped Rapid Robotics to discover direction for how to continue to advance their technology.

“The Westec team is actively in search of opportunities to be innovative for their customers, and our collaboration with them has been instrumental in guiding our feature development priorities,” said Kretchmer.

Rapid Robotics provides all the programming, fixtures, and planning for our cobots. Westec completed training before receiving our first cobot in February 2020. After a short set up time, the cobots are ready to work, allowing programs to be in production within one day. From there, our staff can handle the rest, but Rapid Robotics is always available for added technical support.

Meet Our Cobots

Having a cobot join the team can initially feel a little intimidating, but once our employees knew that our new workers would be there to supplement the great work our team does, they were quick to accept them.

Westec’s first cobot is “Melvin”. He’s a hard-worker that has jumped into our culture of dedicated workers. Melvin has been primarily functioning in secondary operations, working with two of our pad printing machines, as well as being trained to work with a hot stamp machine.

Our newest cobot, “Kim”, was initially delayed by COVID-19, but launched and joined our team in full capacity as of the end of May. Our team is excited to have another new member join us. She is being trained to remove parts from a press and to coordinate functions for both automated trimming and bagging stations.

Once that job is completed, Kim will be working with our newest capability – 2-shot injection molding.

As part of our continuous expansion of capabilities, 2-shot injection molding is the next advancement at Westec. We plan to begin this process by the beginning of the third quarter where Kim will be assisting us with additional duties related to the 2-shot automated manufacturing cells.

Get your project started, contact Westec today!