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Automation leads to cost saving and transformative change on automotive lines

It has been insightful to see how straightforward the upgrade to new automation techniques can be for a business like ours and we are already noting the benefits. This is only the start of the journey as we look to implement collaborative automation across the facility which will have a truly transformational impact on the business.” Matt Harwood, Managing Director, Barkley Plastics LtdLink opens in a new window


Barkley PlasticsLink opens in a new window is a leading injection moulder, with one of the largest on-site toolrooms in the UK. Although working across a range of sectors, automotive is a huge area of focus for the company. The company has continued to deliver on major automotive client projects, but they were looking for ways to drive cost efficiencies through speeding up production time and improving quality.

They wanted to focus on a particular automotive OEM line which manufactures clear lenses for exterior lighting, worth around 7% of Barkleys’ annual turnover. They were interested in how automation could help them reduce scrap rates and save on operator costs. They were currently experiencing a 20% scrap rate on the 300,000 pairs of lenses per year and wanted to reduce it to around 2-3%. Having worked with WMG in the past on a factory layout project for a JLR and BMW line, they approached the group to see if there was scope for some further support.


WMG worked with Barkleys to conduct a detailed study mapping out each process, looking at how to improve quality. After analysis of Barkleys’ specific needs, WMG suggested a Cognex vision system and RAR cobot (collaborative robot) to implement automation on this line that would align with an existing pick and place beam robot that Barkleys already had in place. The vision system would scan and recognise parts on the line and would then guide the cobot to detect, pick and place parts in the manufacturing process. The factory simulation of the future state process enabled the production team at Barkleys to see the positive impact automation would have on cycle time, operator usage, reducing waste and a clear view of the benefits they could achieve through investing in the technology. They were then able to decide on the specific models to invest in with continued support from the WMG team and the cobot manufacturer during the implementation of the new processes.



  • This scoping project led to a grant which contributed 50% of the cost of the cobot
  • Investing in automation could save over £100,000 in operator utilisation each year. Previously the line had 3 operators working on it per shift over 3 shifts per day, and now it will require just one operator per shift to conduct final checks
  • The vision system implementation is foreseen to further reduce scrappage on the lens production by 5%
  • The implementation of the cobot has reduced the level of customer returns by half on the line due to more efficient packing
  • The project has led to further work including placing a final automated spot check on this line as well as automation on other lines which will result in further savings

“Working with Barkley Plastics on this project has provided us with further evidence to show how useful our support around automation in SMEs is. We have enjoyed applying our expertise on this project and seeing the cobot up and running and delivering quality improvements for the business. We look forward to further collaboration in the future.”

Ioan Lutas, WMG

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Thu 10 Nov 2022, 10:00 | Tags: SME Success Story