After adding two Kawasaki R series robots to its production line, walking aid manufacturer Ossenberg saw production volume increase tenfold to more than 10,000 walking aids per day.
With more than 60 years of experience, Ossenberg has become the market leader for walking aids – developing, manufacturing, and distributing crutches, light metal canes and orthopedic aids for global retailers. In order to keep up with the fast company growth and the increased demand for its products, Ossenberg’s management team decided to automate their primary metal processing application.
In addition to higher production flexibility and easy handling of several pipe lengths, precision was at the top of Ossenberg’s priority list. Instead of drilling or punching the height-adjustment holes into the pipe as has been done previously, the holes were going to be milled. For pipe processing, a positional repeatability 0.1 mm and a drilling accuracy of +0.05 mm is essential.
Furthermore, the pipes should be deburred from the inside and the outside at the same time.
Ossenberg produces its articles on an order-by-order basis and foregoes extensive warehousing in favour of agile, demand-oriented production. Therefore, great speed, short cycle times and fast shipping are decisive factors. Only eight minutes pass from accepting an order to starting production, and the final shipment arrives at its destination less than 36 hours after the order is placed.
The standard Ossenberg walking aids are available in 850 variants, including multiple colours, different materials and adaptable sizes and load capacities. This enormous product variance requires a high degree of flexibility from their robotic system.
During a visit to an automotive supplier, Ossenberg managing director Carsten Diekmann experienced the efficiency and user friendliness of Kawasaki robots firsthand. “Kawasaki Robotics has a very good reputation and many companies appreciate not only the modern technology, but also the flexibility, the local service and the special focus on small to mid-sized companies,” Diekmann explains. “While other manufacturers were not able or willing to fit our particular needs, the Kawasaki team was able to consult us comprehensively and conduct preliminary tests.”
Now at the Ossenberg production facility, ositioned centrally inside a 20’ by 30’ cell, a Kawasaki RS020N handles the pipe processing. After the pipes in their raw form are supplied through an external shaft, cut to the right length, and deburred, the welding seam is turned to the right side to guarantee a precise alignment. After this step is complete, the robot moves the pipes towards a fixture, where an additional RS050N robot equipped with milling tools will mill the precisely positioned height-adjustment holes into the pipes from both sides.
During the final step, it is possible to automatically attach the spring-operated push buttons for height adjustment. Depending on the product requirements, it is also possible to recognise bending angles within the outer pipe component. This allows a highly flexible and economic production process for different components and allows Ossenberg to easily manufacture walking aids in multiple variants and shapes. The entire pipe processing plant is constructed in a modular fashion and controlled using one interface, which ensures a simplified, flexible, product-specific operation.
Managing director Dietmar Fark worked closely with the Kawasaki engineers throughout the process to ensure streamlined operation and quick start-up. This way, the plant was up and running quickly, and Ossenberg experienced increased production volume and efficiency almost instantly. While processing a pipe took 5.5 minutes before, now the system can process six pipes in 50 seconds.
Within a short time Ossenberg was able to increase their entire production volume to more than one million items per year. Today more than 10,000 walking aids – as opposed to 100 ten years ago – and 3,000 to 4,000 handles are manufactured daily as part of a three-shift operation. By automating this process, production stability has increased significantly and offers long-term job security to the employees in their facility.
Over the next few years, Ossenberg plans to further develop their facility and continue growing its production volume. As an example, Fark says: “The automation made possible by the Kawasaki robots increased our output exponentially. And there is still room for more: through specific process improvement we plan to decrease the time necessary for six pipes to 45 seconds.”