A whole new business has evolved with robots
Robotics is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today. Robots are already used in transportation, medicine and teaching. At Metso, robots were introduced and tested in wear and spare parts manufacturing already in early 2000, long before today's "revolution". Since then, their involvement has complemented production by enabling new ways of operating.
Robots enable foundries to utilize patternless technology, which not only improves lead time and cuts costs, but also increases flexibility in production. In traditional foundries, each casted product requires a new pattern tool to be made, but robots can create a sand mold quicker and smarter since no pattern is needed.
Every robot-made mold can be individually customized. Consequently, a whole new business has evolved around the customization, which – and this is what digitalization here is all about – has changed existing operating models across the value chain in order to deliver new, value-creating solutions.
The harmony between technology and the customer has had a major impact in the production of heavy primary-crusher wear parts. Although traditionally viewed as appropriate for producing large batches, robots can also customize massive molds flexibly and in a time-efficient manner, thus enabling us to respond to the customer's varying needs.
Digital manufacturing – breaking boundaries with and within
Customer centricity is one of Metso's must-wins, and success in that area was the ultimate icebreaker for technology implementation globally within other Metso foundries. When delivery time is critical, locally available robots only need the digital product information to perform a task.
But the physical product is only the tip of the iceberg. And robots are only one part of digital manufacturing, which extends all the way from the design, delivery and services to quality control and other means of gathering and utilizing data.
Ultimately, machines do exactly what they are told to do. Without knowledgeable people, robots would just gather rust. Making the most of digital manufacturing requires the curiosity to expand one's scope and bring the entire process together. And this is where the future challenges and opportunities are.