TWI Industrial Member Report Summary 790/2004
N D Spong and C N D Peters
The welding fabrication industry produces a wide and diverse range of products ranging from high volume automotive body-in-white to one-off very large constructions such as ships.
As elsewhere, the fabrication industry is experiencing increasing demands from customers for greater product variety with shorter lead-times and lower cost. Added to these pressures, Western based fabricators are experiencing competition from fabrication companies in lower cost geographical regions and a decline in the number of skilled personnel, particularly welders.
To meet market needs, fabricators are looking to employ flexible manufacturing techniques and approaches that will enable them to produce 'one-off' customised products as quickly and cheaply as those that are mass-produced. The term being used for this area of manufacturing is Mass Customisation.
Automation, and in particular robotics, is seen to be a key enabler in achieving Mass Customised products.
The aim of this report is to provide an overview of the current status and future development of flexible automation in the welding fabrication industry.