Eckhart has launched a new quality process control solution called FlexCheck for production lines that need a safe, affordable, and automated multi-point vision inspection. FlexCheck combines a vision system and a collaborative robot to create a turnkey solution that can supplement or replace operator-based quality inspection and eliminates the need for traditional robotic safeguarding or a large footprint.
FlexCheck has traction with several automotive OEMs as well as consumer packaged goods companies and appliance manufacturers. “We turned to FlexCheck to address quality issues on a high mix line after adding additional personnel didn’t result in improvement,” says Andrew Nieland, a quality engineer at a large Indiana-based appliance manufacturer. He continued, “the collaborative robot technology at use in FlexCheck meant that the system could be placed lineside in a small footprint and without safety concerns. After a successful trial period, we were able to redeploy human inspectors from three different shifts to more productive functions of our operation.”
Companies are drawn to the flexibility, low investment, and easily programmable nature of collaborative robots. Seeing a “cobot” at work on a manufacturing floor is becoming commonplace as companies look to safely automate tasks and increase production yields. FlexCheck combines the strongest third-party collaborative robotic technologies on the market with Eckhart’s deep expertise in camera programming and PLC-based line integration.
Case Study: FlexCheck delivers for a Global Manufacturer of Home Appliances
Challenge: Defect rates began increasing for a large home appliance manufacturer (“WashCo”), which was simultaneously receiving pressure to reduce indirect labor expense. WashCo had already explored traditional vision systems but had achieved little success due to highly variable ambient lighting.
Evaluation and Onboarding: WashCo first initiated a ROI analysis to better understand how FlexCheck would need to perform to clear internal payback period hurdles. A team from Eckhart came on-site to examine the current quality process and gather critical data points related to the cell layout, line rate, and product placement variation. WashCo commissioned a 50-day FlexCheck trial to supplement the existing process and to check 25 inspection points such as hose connections, labels, and emblems on their two highest volume models. Eckhart technicians completed the installation and programming which included a panel and andon to alert WashCo’s technicians to failures as well as image archiving for traceability.
Results: Line yields improved 8% during the 50 day trial as the WashCo team removed defective units flagged by FlexCheck and used the image data to prioritize and address root causes. Subsequent to the trial, WashCo was able to redeploy 2 full-time quality inspection operators per shift as the team became comfortable relying on FlexCheck for the majority of their inspection process. The WashCo quality team concluded their FlexCheck had a payback period of 14 weeks and they are looking to onboard the solution to additional lines.
Founded in 1974 and based in Lansing, Michigan, Eckhart is an established market leader in the design and manufacturing of specialized ergonomic and automation solutions for global manufacturing companies. Eckhart offers a range of custom-engineered lift assists, torque reaction devices, fixtures, robotics, automated/semi-automated work cells, quality process control equipment, and workstations that improve workplace safety, increase manufacturing productivity and enhance product quality. The company serves an established and loyal, blue-chip customer base of leading automotive and industrial original equipment manufacturers (“OEMs”), including GM, Ford, Tesla, Chrysler, John Deere, Bradford White and Caterpillar. For additional information, please visit www.eckhartusa.com.