As the manufacturing sector regroups from the disruption caused by COVID-19, one thing has become clear: Skilled worker shortages will continue to escalate, and stamping operations need to prepare and adapt to meet this challenge.
A recent survey by a major manufacturing technologies company reported that 21% of respondents said automation is an area in which COVID-19 revealed opportunities for innovation. With fewer human resources on the shop floor, metal forming operations that automate waste streams and leverage the industrial internet of things (IIoT) will be more efficient for a more resilient future. Also, because automation supports physical distancing of employees and reduces contact with equipment and tools overall, it also enhances workplace safety.
Five areas in which adding automation to stamping and diemaking processes not only help mitigate the existing lack of skilled labor but position stamping manufacturers for growth down the road are related to scrap, fluid management, and monitoring.
Conveyors, hydraulic dumpers, and automated loadout systems eliminate some of the most laborious manual processes in metal scrap handling.
Conveyors. Conveyors remove stamping scrap and debris quickly and automatically from the point of production. When metal waste and spent cutting fluid are cleared from core operations automatically, forklift transfer is eliminated and production cycles are optimized.
Automatic dumpers. These accept chip carts or drums from die machining operations and elevate and invert them over a receiving hopper. Mechanical options are equipped for high-level transfers; hydraulic systems facilitate low-level metal scrap transfers. If a hand-held control is used for directing the operation, both systems empower efficient, one-person cart unloading.
Loadout systems. These systems automatically transfer metal scrap into distribution containers for transport to a metal recycler. A shuttle conveyor’s continuous back-and-forth operation evenly distributes scrap in containers. Level sensors provide operators with an alert when the container is filled to capacity. Loadout automation can even send a signal to the scrap dealer using machine-to-machine communication that the container is ready for pickup. Integral scales track overall scrap output and help ensure that containers are full but do not exceed road weight limits as well. These systems significantly minimize the oversight needed for efficient loadouts.
Automating the transfer of metal scrap from one point of production to another minimizes employee intervention. Also, workplace safety is improved because these systems eliminate the dangers associated with moving metal scrap manually. This can help attract and retain quality employees, while enabling resource allocation for production-focused tasks in other areas of operation.
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