I have ever seen was a welder who had
10 years of manual welding experience,” Scott said. “When shop owners
ask about the personnel they need, I
suggest that they pick a person with an
open mind and is eager to learn.
Programming these days is mainly done
by selecting icons on a touchscreen.
Touchscreens are everywhere these
days—on iPads® and iPhones® and so
on. They’re common these days, so
people aren’t intimidated by them.
“You use a push button on a pendant to move the robot’s arm to a location, record that location, then do the
next one,” Scott said.
“We teach a basic skill set to the
operators and the maintenance peo-
ple,” Patty said. It doesn’t require con-
ventional programming—writing line
after line of commands. “We teach
operators how to jog a robot and touch
a point, and it’s all done through a
mouse or a keyboard.”
Part volume and potential return on
investment are two factors that help
determine whether a project is feasible.
“The 80/20 rule applies to automa-
tion just as it applies everywhere else,”
Wayne Trail’s Scott said. “For most fab-
ricators, typically we start with the parts
that occupy 80 percent of their produc-
tion volumes. These are the products
fabricators should consider automating,
and where they need to concentrate on
the equipment’s flexibility.”
“Often we do an automation
audit,” Bollheimer said. “For example,
a fabrication shop might have 20
processes, and the owner might have a
few processes in mind for automation.
We’ll take a close look at all the opera-
tions and come up with the processes
for which automation will lead to the
“After using simulations to help fab-
ricators visualize the process as we
would automate it, we create a cycle
time chart, ” said Scott. “The chart
compares the expected cycle time of the
automated process with the cycle time
they currently have, doing the process
manually, and this helps us set a rea-
sonable time frame for return on invest-
Patty pointed out that it’s critical for
fabricators to understand that some
An Automation Project Is a People Project
Successful planning, installation, and commissioning of an
automation project is as much about people as it is about
equipment. John Schott, president of EPIC Systems Inc.,
cited three key components of a successful automation project, and none had much to do with the cold steel and impersonal routine of a machine but a lot to do with the flesh and
blood of the company’s employees.
First, an internal automation champion and system
owner are necessary to guarantee success of the installed
system. This is critical to overall acceptance. The team
needs clear direction from a solid, committed leader.
Second, EPIC relies on the input from operators and maintenance personnel before designing an automated system.
“If we don’t include the people who will be responsible for
the system, we’re not walking in their shoes,” Schott said.
“Getting everyone’s input gives everyone a vested interest in
the project’s success. If we skip this step, we can design the
best system imaginable, but it won’t be a success.”
Third is the need for client maintenance personnel
trained to maintain and troubleshoot the system.