Injection Molding, Automation (Creative Problem Solving)

27 Apr

One of the first automation projects I managed was to upgrade molding operations, & reduce operational cost. My manager was fund of robotics & modernization, so he encouraged robotics. After reviewing the options, Prab Robotics came with least expensive quote, & I worked with purchasing to place the orders. Everything progressed smoothly, till we got the robots installed.

First issue was the operators’ resistance to automation! Often, someone would walk into the office to let us know that the robots don’t work, so I would go to see what is wrong. I used to check everything ( I had complete training in setting up & running the entire system, including the molding machines), and after finding nothing wrong, I would reset the controls & get the system restarted, everything would run beautifully. I ended up literally baby sitting the systems, & found out that as long as I was watching the operations, everything would keep running beautifully. So, we thought that we should provide a more comprehensive training to operators & maintenance. I developed simple instructions, in addition to manuals, & step by step troubleshooting guides, and addressed the maintenance crew: “Look, if I can make the system work, so should you!” We did not hear any complaints about robots not working after that!

One of my most challenging projects and design problems in molding and automation was unloading a variety of parts from different molds, the flexibility required was making the design too complex! I had worked with others to resolve the mold maintenance requirements, quick mold change over & process set up issues, along with the take away conveyor interlock with the robot. Robotic company was supposed to design the end effector, but the end effector that they provided to us was too big & complex, causing technical issues. I was the project manager, holding money/pay off from the robotic company till they fixed the problem, according to our contract they were responsible for the design. The vendor went behind my back to my boss & complained about me, my boss asked me hand the project over to another engineer, so I did that.

I make a long story short, the new engineer, our crew & the robotic company worked on the project for three years, they finally gave up, saying that it was not going to work. I approached the engineer & my boss with a proposal that they leave the project to me, let me solve the design issue on my own, finding a new vendor for the end effector design. They were sure that I would fail as well, so they gave me the go ahead. First thing I did was evaluating the root cause that was making the project too complex to solve.  I used AutoCAD & evaluated the molds & parts design variations, next I came up with a concept design, an alternate solution to handle 90% of the molds automatically, & run the 10% elsewhere, promising the elimination of end effector change over requirements. My boss presented the proposal to our president, he approved it. Within 4 months, Monfort Robotics came up with detailed design for my concept design, & the robot & its new tooling were in production running smoothly, this is when maintenance Next thing I knew I was being bullied by the engineer who had spent three years on the project, asking me to SLOW DOWN the robot!

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2 Responses to “Injection Molding, Automation (Creative Problem Solving)”

  1. virus May 8, 2011 at 4:31 am #

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    • Mahzad May 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

      I have spent a lot of time on manufacturing floor & with some real well experienced engineers & technicians. I also have a logical mind understanding high level demands, & a good imagination in addition to my cross functional training.

      Granted, I see somethings easier than others, but that mainly is because I listen to & read the work done by other people very carefully.

      Meaning that the pieces of information are out there, I don’t invent much, most of the time I integrate the pieces of solutions, choosing the best solutions, putting them in best logical orders, where they can do their best!

      I found you message in spam! Sorry for the delayed reply.

Thank you.

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