-- Success Story --
All the gear and now lots of ideas for Billingham Bags
Billingham Bags manufactures camera, leisure, binocular and laptop bags in Cradley Heath, in the West Midlands. They have been manufacturing bags in the UK since 1973.
Billingham Bags specialise in bags with a canvas front and back, pockets and leather patches are sewn to each panel before being attached together and turned into the final product.
Billingham wanted to automate the silicon adhesive application process, which was previously a manual task. To seal the stitched holes, an operator holds the panel and manually applies adhesive to the underside of the sewn workpiece. This process is time consuming, as it requires two operators to dispense the superglue and it takes 60 seconds for one workpiece. The manual nature of this step in the process can lead to accuracy issues, with an inconsistent flow of silicone adhesive. In addition, the manual adhesive application causes an interruption to the flow of work and delays across the automated sewing line, causing a bottleneck.
To improve quality, increase productivity and reduce the need for manual intervention, Billingham Bags has invested in a Techman TM5 collaborative robot to run glueing applications automatically. Accessories with TM5 cobot includes an end of arm dispensing tool and integrated vision system.
With their new technology, they now needed to understand it, programme it and get it working. However, they need support with this, as this type of automation was new to them.
Billingham Bags found out about WMG’s SME support via peers in our strong network of manufacturing SMEs. Asad Ullah, Technology Transfer Engineer, suggested that the best route of support was our WMG Internship Programme. This was a six-week placement programme in which an intern explored the Techman TM5s and adhesive dispensing system capabilities, as well as assessing any limitations the system had, to deliver the best overall output possible. The intern, Pablo Asensi Garcia, is a mechatronics, robotics and automation engineering graduate. The control code was generated for TM5 collaborative robot for superglue-adhesive dispensing and application. Techman TM5 built-in vision system is also programmed to locate workpieces and detect stitched patterns automatically.
Other activities he undertook included modifying robot behaviour to improve performance during the execution of tasks such as precisely depositing a certain amount of glue to different sections of the stitching pattern in a variety of workpieces.
- With the automated adhesive dispensing application system, adhesive application process time was reduced to 30 seconds respectively for each product on the line and eliminating bottlenecks (a 50% timesaving).
- Estimated labour workforce reduced from three to one operators in proposed automated adhesive dispensing line saving £48k per year.
- The manual dispensing process was replaced by Techman TM5 collaborative robot resulting in a less labour-intensive workload and less room for human errors. The products can now be made faster.
- Knowledge transferred was the understanding of production capability and supply chain awareness, as well as materials understanding.
- Next steps: A novel partition system was also created with the help of the WMG SME Group. Once enabled Billingham would be able to extend its product lines and create a new niche market. This will be developed later in the year.
Martin Billingham, Chairman, at Billingham Bags commented; “WMG has lots of new ideas we’ve not considered before. Their help in implementing the new cobot has been amazing. We can’t wait to expand our company because of this new step towards efficiency.”
Asad Ullah, Technology Transfer Engineer at WMG added; “Cobots are a lot of fun to work with and seeing this cobot make such a difference in an SME will hopefully path the way for other SMEs to see that it’s accessible for them too. This equipment has boosted Billingham Bags efficiency and reduced bottlenecks and human errors.”