Lifting the bar

Lifting the bar
Smarter robots are helping Best Bars Ltd, to lift performance and create higher quality products in record time.
While Best Bars has used robotic welders and other automated processes, such as plasma cutting, for some time, it is now employing new, smart systems to make it all work seamlessly together and with spectacular results, according to manufacturing manager Clifford Jackson.
“Set-up times have reduced dramatically and that makes a big difference in terms of flexibility – it means we can be more efficient and provide a better service to our customers,” says Mr Jackson.
Systems have been enhanced with smarter robot welders that can be programmed to virtually eliminate down time, produce a higher quality and more precise product. The robots have increased functionality compared to previous generation welders and are able to deliver more consistent products. This investment in automation allows Best Bars to offset cost imposts similar to those faced by all manufacturing businesses, while continuing to provide customers with safety critical component at an affordable price.
“Welding is critical in products such as tow bars,” says Mr Jackson. “If it isn’t done correctly it can cause issues and delays throughout the manufacturing process, as well as affecting performance and therefore safety.” Upon completion of the current investment programme in mid-2012, around 85 percent of Best Bars production will be robotically welded. With towbars being a safety critical component, this provides customers with the knowledge that their Best Bars product is supported by the best in design, testing and manufacturing processes.
“Although a person can weld in the same time, a robot can do it consistently to specification every time. Our people have been retrained in areas such as quality control, which also has a positive impact on health and safety in the factory and the engagement of our staff.”
The new smart system at Best Bars incorporates a process known as Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), which is one of the lean production methods for reducing waste in a manufacturing process. It provides a rapid and efficient way of converting a manufacturing process from running the current product to running the next product. This rapid changeover is key to reducing production lot sizes and thereby improving flow, says Mr Jackson.
It’s yet another example of how Best Bars is adopting latest technology and production systems to keep ahead of the competition and maintain its relevance in the NZ market, especially at a time when manufacturing in New Zealand is under enormous pressure.
Best Bars is committed to winning against both imported and local competition by differentiating on quality, service and innovation.
“If you can surpass customer expectations with an innovative idea and impress them on quality and delivery, all at an acceptable price, it’s a very compelling story and one we aim for at Best Bars,” adds Mr Jackson.
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