ABB Robotics create new jobs in Finland

Industrial automation and robots can provide great opportunities for businesses. For Finnish car builder they brought more work.

Two hundred ABB robots are busy at work manufacturing the modern Mercedes-Benz’s new A-Class cars at Valmet Automotive’s factory in Uusikaupunki in Southern Finland. The contract signed in 2012 was Finland’s largest robot order ever.According to Pasi Rannus from Valmet Automotive, the reason for employing robots is simple: they ensure high quality, reliable and efficient car manufacturing. 

“We would not manufacture the A-Class cars in Finland without the robots. Industrial automation is a necessity in contract car manufacturing. It is about productivity, competitiveness, delivery and quality requirements. Robots guarantee that we have work.”


Automated manufacturing lines
On the new production line the robots undertake tasks such as spot welding, gluing and material handling. The majority of the robots are installed on a completely modernized body-in-white line. The welding line at the factory needs to achieve over 90 percent utilization every production day. As the robot tasks are related to each other, the individual equipment utilization is actually 97 percent. 

The factory will produce more than 100 000 vehicles in the period 2013 to 2016. Robots are a prerequisite for the survival of industrial jobs in Finland, otherwise the jobs will move to countries with lower labor costs. “Automation and robots are rather a great opportunity for industrial manufacturing. Content and the complexity of the work are only changing,” says Rannus. 

Comprehensive design work ensures fast start-up
Simultaneous engineering and strong project management of both product and the production process guaranteed the launch of the new A-Class production quickly and efficiently. Although the factory hall was still empty, 80 to 90 percent of the design work had already been done, which saved a lot of time during the installation of robots. 

“The robot line design and programming are part of our core competence. In the engineering phase the robotized manufacturing cells are modeled on a virtual 3D world for optimizing the cell layout,” says Rannus. 
.Dull, Dirty & Dangerous tasks 
Else where in Finland robots are also helping remove people from unsuitable working conditions. “Work in hot, cold, or otherwise challenging circumstances for health is being replaced by robots” says Timo Toissalo from ABB.

“For example a customer in a cheese factory could not get any more human cheese packers as the work was cold, wet, and there was a lot of work-related sickness absence. When the packaging line was automated with robots, the job descriptions changed to provide more rewarding work and those jobs became highly sought after,” 

“The only challenge now is to find the right kind of people to operate the robot systems. Those skills are currently not taught at any school” says Toissalo. ” We require vocational training, a good attitude and willingness to learn. The best robot experts are 20 to 30 years old. They learn fast since they have grown up with game consoles.”


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