Small Weld Shop Addresses Labor Shortage, Boosts Productivity & Profits with Cobot-Powered Welding Robot

Wisconsin-based Processed Metal Innovators (PMI) is a metal fabricator that produces stamped and welded metal parts in sizes ranging from a few inches to 10 feet using thin-gauge to three-quarter-inch and heavier materials. Facing a shortage of certified welders and with traditional welding robots unable to handle high mix/low volume runs, PMI turned to collaborative welding automation from Hirebotics to increase productivity and profitability.

Erik Larson, VP of operations at PMI, was tired of turning business away due to labor shortages. “There’s been a lot of business that’s come knocking on our door,” he explains, “and a lot of it in the past we’ve had to no-bid because it requires welding. We only have about seven welders and for some of these jobs, we needed nine or ten welders. Right now, we have enough quotes out there that we would have to have hired 30 more welders.” With traditional robotic welders not feasible for small runs, Larson needed another option. 

PMI had experience with Universal Robots’ collaborative robots (or ‘cobots’) following a successful two cobot deployment on mechanical press tending tasks. The deployment was led by Nashville, TN-based Hirebotics, a UR Certified Systems Integrator and pioneer in cloud-connected cobot systems and specialized collaborative welding solutions. 

PMI also had experience with traditional welding robots, which turned out to be unsuited to high mix/low volume production, given that they require tooling fixtures that can take up to 16 weeks to be built. Especially for the small-run parts, traditional robots and fixtures simply weren’t cost-effective.

So, when Larson discovered that Hirebotics offered a complete out of the box, robot welding system that includes a cobot from Universal Robots, the pieces immediately clicked into place. 

“They are collaborative robots and you don’t need a large guarding system around them. They’re very small, easy to use, very easy to program. It’s a win-win package—it’s the future for doing small welds,” says Larson.

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