Automotive industry also calls for flexibility

Robot automation is already well-established in Poland's automotive industry. This is precisely why in this sector that robot automation is virtually a must when it comes to keeping quality high and delivery times short. Poland's POLMOstrów, the largest exhaust system manufacturer in Central and Eastern Europe, engaged Valk Welding robots as far back as five years ago, which enabled it to build up a competitive advantage. Eight Valk Welding robots are now working 'arm in arm' 24/7 at the production plant in Ostrow.


POLMOstrów produces a wide range of exhaust systems in small series

POLMOstrów produces and delivers exhaust systems and has been operating in this market for over 40 years. Production ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 units a day. That amounts to a steel consumption of 60 tons a day. "Our range comprises around 3,000 models and components", explains Marek Stefanski, engineering manager at POLMOstrów. "A broad range such as this means that you have to set up production for a large variation and small series. Quality and delivery times are of of highest importance to our clients. The procedures for reproducing the products and guaranteed delivery times are very sensitive aspects in the car industry.”

Consistent quality

The skills of employees play a vital role. "It's now very difficult to find qualified personnel, especially welders", says Marek Stefanski, and continues: "Relying on the skills of employees involves a big risk. The repetition accuracy of the products is determined by the ability of the employee. Different employees take a different approach to the details, are slower than the robot and can't work every day of the week. That's why we started thinking about robot automation at an early stage."

Comprehensive selection procedure

There is no room for trial and error in the car industry, where the competition is always hot on your heels. The selection of a reliable supplier of industrial robots is therefore preceded by a comprehensive selection and test procedure. "The decision to robotise was taken when the company was employing about 600 people, of which 200 welders," says the engineering manager. "The choice of a welding robot system supplier was preceded by an indepth analysis of the technical options and the supplier's competencies. Welding exhaust mufflers involves thin-walled parts and short welds. After a number of successful tests carried out at the Valk Welding demo centre in the Czech Republic we decided to continue working with this robot integrator", says Marek Stefanski.

Flexible system

We wanted to implement a comprehensive system that we could use to weld both existing and new products using our own hardware and software options. "We provided a simple configuration consisting of a robot with two workstations fitted with positioners,” explains Jakub Vavrecka, branche manager of Valk Welding CZ. "One of the client's important requirements was maximum flexibility when it came to quickly retooling for another product. We recommended using Quick Touch (wire tracking) to cover the dimensioning tolerances", explains Jakub Vavrecka.

Marek Stefanski agrees: "When we started the partnership with Valk Welding we still weren't completely sure what to expect. The first welding robot was successfully put into operation in 2010. Valk Welding provided the programming and the welding jigs for the first products. For the next products we took this on ourselves so that we could independently extend the number of products on the welding robot step by step. The Valk Welding concept gave us maximum flexibility. In the years to follow we extended the number of welding robots to the current 8 systems."

Service support and spare parts

Marek Stefanski also underlines the professional cooperation following installation of the welding robot cells. "After-sales service not only involves training personnel to take the welding robots into use, but also for training after staff changes. The robot maintenance was also perfectly arranged. That's what the parts depot at the plant in Ostrow was set up for." That means that all of the parts needed for standard maintenance are immediately available. The supplier can supply the rest from stock. "We're a company that can solve a lot of things for ourselves", says Marek Stefanski. "We're very pleased with the smooth partnership with Valk Welding", he adds.

Long-term partnership

"We take the view that our experience and cooperation with the manufacturing industry are what make us able to economically adapt our range to customer requirements making use of the opportunities and advantages of robotics", says Jakub Vavrecka. "Together we have succeeded in optimally setting up production. I'm convinced that this has contributed to the success of POLMOstrów as a company", he adds.

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