Cobotics Innovation Paves the Way of the Future with Craig Zoberis

Episode 195 | Challenges: Growth Workforce Technology

Are Cobots Useful in Manufacturing?

Cobotics are a current hot topic in the MetalWorking Nation. Innovation within the AI spectrum is opening new doors and possibilities for manufacturing leaders who are willing to embrace change. Guest speaker, Craig Zoberis, shares his “Aha!” moment when he realized cobots could help him create a more efficient and life-giving environment for his team. His passion for innovation and the power of the cobotic ecosystem led him to create his own cobotics production line - empowering the Metal Working Nation to perform at their absolute best. 

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Enabling your team’s greatest potential by eliminating menial tasks

Growing up working at his father’s manufacturing business, Craig entered the industry as a college graduate with a wealth of knowledge and familiarity. Starting his own business focused on assembly, he eventually recognized the need for in-house machinery. Wanting maximum control of his own schedule as well as his team’s, Craig began researching the impact that cobots can have on improving efficiency and helping to close the skills gap. Encouraged by his team to pursue a future in cobotics, he began implementing them into his workforce. The impact was so powerful that Craig and his team at Fusion OEM were inspired to create their own line of cobotics. 

Screen Shot 2019-07-29 at 11.25.51 AM

Collaborative robots - cobots - are designed to operate around people and often with people. Not only can they help you eliminate the menial tasks that take up your team’s valuable and limited time, but they can also help keep integration and employee turnover costs low. Cobots are easily taught by those working in their space. There is no need for a cobotics consultant to train it in every new function. Using cobots to fulfill repetitive and menial work frees up your team to focus on areas of work that require their expertise - allowing them to grow in their knowledge and application instead of being bogged down by time-consuming tasks. 


Eliminating the dull, dirty, and dangerous 

Craig explains that knowing where and how to utilize cobots can be overwhelming to those who are first installing them. He encourages listeners to focus on the jobs on the shop floor that are dull, dirty, or dangerous and to begin implementing cobots in those tasks. Cobots are especially helpful in highly repetitive work because they don’t slow down or speed up as a human would throughout the day. The consistent speed and functionality of the cobot allows for more predictable output timetables and eliminates the dull work that keeps your team tied. Deburring, polishing, sanding, quality inspection, sensing, and making/recording measurements are all tasks that a cobot can accomplish - freeing you and your machinists to focus on what really matters. 


Investing in your team’s expertise by investing in cobotics

Training up the new generation of manufacturing leaders and machinists is incredibly important, especially when considering the huge portion of the current manufacturing labor force that is made up of baby boomers. Planning for the turnover that comes with retirements can be made smoother by implementing cobots into your workforce. While training new employees, cobots can cover tasks left by retired machinists and keep your output steady. Cobots also allow you to put more time and energy into training new employees and seasoned team members in new skills. The skills gap dilemma doesn’t have to slow your business. Using cobots can not only help you close that skills gap but make your production time more efficient while doing so. 


Educating yourself in the cobotic ecosystem

Jumping into cobotics implementation and utilization can be intimidating. Craig encourages listeners to take small steps and to familiarize themselves with what the cobotic ecosystem is all about. Visiting manufacturing shops and production lines that use cobots will allow you to see for yourself what they can accomplish. Find easy wins for cobotics within your own workforce. Test out cobots on jobs that you know you could use them in. Cobotics is a paradigm shift, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Chip away at the automation transition and watch your business grow! 




Here’s The Good Stuff!

  • Craig’s “Aha!” moment: implementing cobots for greater efficiency. 
  • The difference between robots and cobots.
  • Investing in future expert machinists by using cobots.
  • The phases of training for a cobot. 
  • Eliminating the three Ds with cobotics. 
  • Understanding how cobots “talk” with other machines. 
  • Ways to engage in the cobotic ecosystem.

Tools & Takeaways


This Week’s Superstar Guest: Craig Zoberis


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Jason Zenger: STEP. STP. SLDPRT. STL. X_T. X_B. IPT. 3D XML. Cat Part PRT. SAT.

Jim Carr: What are those, Jason?

Jason Zenger: Jim. Those are all of the 3D models that you can upload into the Xometry Instant Quoting Engine.

Jim Carr: Of course they are. I knew that. I just wanted to see if you knew what that was. But yeah, Xometry is great to work with. I can not believe... Some of those I have never even heard of before.

Jason Zenger: Well, they get into a lot more stuff than just machining.

Jim Carr: Absolutely, but I guess you just drag it, drop it right into their website and, bam, it spits out an instant quote. It's fantastic.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. I can't believe it, drag and drop and away you go. Go to, X. O. M. E. T. R. Y. .com [Music 00:00:55]

Jason Zenger: Welcome to MakingChips. We believe that manufacturing is challenging, but if you are connected to a community of leaders, you can elevate your skills, solve your problems, and grow your business. I'm your host, Jason Zenger, and I'm joined by my co-host for almost 200 episodes, JC, Jim Carr.

Jim Carr: There you go. That's an acronym I like. Man, that was really sobering too-

Jason Zenger: We're almost there. We got to make 2...

Jim Carr: ...200 episodes.

Jason Zenger: We got to make 200 good.

Jim Carr: Did you ever think we'd be-

Jason Zenger: I think I've said this joke before, but I didn't think I could tolerate you for this many episodes that I have. I should get... You should...

Jim Carr: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait...

Jason Zenger: ...You should give me an award.

Jim Carr: ...Wait, we've tolerated each other, and that's why it's worked.

Jason Zenger: I think you should give me an award.

Jim Carr: Oh no, I don't think so. I think we should give each other an award, but no, it's great. It's been all really good, and it's been an evolution in learning and...

Jason Zenger: Speaking of evolution-

Jim Carr: ...and growing...

Jason Zenger: ...We're talking about robotics today, and that's an evolution in manufacturing.

Jim Carr: Where are we?

Jason Zenger: We're actually at Fusion OEM in Burr Ridge with our good friend Craig Zoberis. We have a bunch of our other manufacturing friends here with us. I was just talking to Collin from Laystrom Manufacturing.

Jim Carr: Oh, he's a great guy, super great guy.

Jason Zenger: Talking to Tim from Chucking Machine Products.

Jim Carr: Oh, is Tim Merrigan here?

Jason Zenger: Yeah.

Jim Carr: Oh, cool.

Jason Zenger: There's a bunch of just great people that... Great manufacturing leaders that we've known for a long time.

Jim Carr: You're a name dropper.

Jason Zenger: No, no, no, no. These are friends.

Jim Carr: No I know, I'm kidding.

Jason Zenger: It's not like I'm saying Beyonce was here or something.

Jim Carr: Right, but no, they are great people, and we've known them because we've been in this world for a long time now.

Jason Zenger: They're just great folks.

Jim Carr: They're great people, and you know what...

Jason Zenger: and they run successful businesses.

Jim Carr: ...great about the manufacturing industry is we are really a tight niche, close...

Jason Zenger: Tightly knitted group of people.

Jim Carr: Thank you. I appreciate that, and we can lean on each other at any time when we've got a problem or an issue in our own businesses, and we need to-

Jason Zenger: You know why, Jim?

Jim Carr: Why?

Jason Zenger: Because manufacturing is challenging.

Jim Carr: Because manufacturing-

Jason Zenger: But if you have a community of leaders, you can connect to them [crosstalk 00:02:53]

Jim Carr: Why am I having déjà vu? Why have I heard this before? But no, it's honest to God, it's true, and we hope that the people out that are listening to this show know that we genuinely are trying to equip and inspire you because we do understand how challenging this business can be, and we hope that we've provided you, over the last 195 episodes, with relevant information that helps you get through that tough day at the shop and made it a little bit easier to know that there's somebody else out there going through the same pain, right?

Jason Zenger: Yeah. I mean if I am going to name drop...

Jim Carr: Name it.

Jason Zenger: ...we are going to see Dan Hampton from the Superbowl Shuffle...

Jim Carr: Oh, you are a name dropper.

Jason Zenger: 1986 Super Bowl Chicago Bear champions.

Jim Carr: That was Super Bowl XX in January, 1986.

Jason Zenger: Yep.

Jim Carr: I was an avid Chicago Bears fan at that time. Every Sunday I'd watch.

Jason Zenger: I actually did watch football back then. I was 10 years old, and I was-

Jim Carr: And I wasn't.

Jason Zenger: ...watching. I don't watch football anymore.

Jim Carr: I was drinking beer at the time when I was watching it.

Jason Zenger: Much to my wife's chagrin, who's a hardcore Dallas Cowboys fan.

Jim Carr: Oh yeah. Well of course she is. She's from... That's where she's from. Anyway, it's great to be here at Fusion. Craig's just such a dynamic guy. I can't wait to get him in the studio here and learn about this new product that he's developing because it really is going to take the machine shop of today into the future and really evolve the industry.

Jason Zenger: So what's keeping you up at night? I know that I've been talking a lot about replacing you with a robot and I was having a conversation with your wife the other day, and she's like, "I could probably replace Jim with a robot too as my husband."

Jim Carr: I don't know about that. I'm pretty, I'm pretty dynamic as a matter of fact.

Jason Zenger: What is keeping you up at night?

Jim Carr: I'm multi-dynamic as a matter of fact, but it's the same thing. You just asked me this not too long ago and right now it's capacity, it's talent, it's taking the business to the next level. We're going to have a great year, and I don't have to tell you that. You know. You've been through that pain before. You know the struggles that are involved in that, and I said at our weekly production meeting today at Carr, "We just need to be strategic about growth. We don't want to go too fast because, first of all, I don't have the wherewithal in me to run five miles at seven and a half miles an hour." I can't do that.

Jason Zenger: You can't go five miles an hour?

Jim Carr: I didn't... I said seven and a half. I said five miles at seven and a half miles an hour.

Jason Zenger: Oh okay.

Jim Carr: I cannot do that. I need to slow down, and I don't need that in my day to day business. I've got plenty of other things going on. I don't want the business to become a drain on me and my family.

Jason Zenger: So don't do it.

Jim Carr: No, I'm not going to.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, because I agree as somebody that's gone fast.

Jim Carr: Yes, it's hard to slow down. It's hard to let off that gas pedal.

Jason Zenger: Especially as you're looking at retirement, it's why should I? And I understand because my dad, when I was pushing him, he was like, "I don't want to." And...

Jim Carr: Were you pushing him?

Jason Zenger: Well, I always have for the last 20 years. And now, he's ready to retire.

Jim Carr: You're mean. You're not a nice guy. You're pushing, you're pushing your poor old dad. How are you pushing him?

Jason Zenger: Pushing him to do new and different things.

Jim Carr: Oh, change.

Jason Zenger: To change.

Jim Carr: Evolve.

Jason Zenger: To do more. It even goes back to when my wife and I bought black industrial and safety supply. The reason we bought it was not because I didn't present this opportunity to my dad because I did present it to him. I said, "I have this opportunity, and should we Zenger's, buy this company.", and he was like, "I don't want to do it.", and that was fine.

Jim Carr: He did not.

Jason Zenger: He did not want me to do it.

Jim Carr: He really put the stop sign up.

Jason Zenger: He put the stop sign up, and he said, "If you're going to do it, do it yourself.", and so I did. Yeah. Everybody challenged me, and they said, "You'll never be able to do this yourself", and I found people who financed me, who believed in me and away we go. And my wife's in Indiana right now at black, and I'm here with you.

Jim Carr: And you almost had a heart attack in that transition period.

Jason Zenger: And I almost had a heart attack, but that's a different story.

Jim Carr: I can't believe you told me that, and I remember that weekend that we were together.

Jason Zenger: It was never a heart attack. It was stress induced chest pains, which we've talked about on other episodes, and maybe we could talk about more in depth in the future, how I recovered from that, but it was not an easy time for me, not because we bought the company, but for other things that happened after that.

Jim Carr: Right because you never know what gets thrown your way.

Jason Zenger: You never know.

Jim Carr: So tell the Metal Working Nation what's going on at the boring bar. What the heck is the boring bar?

Jason Zenger: I've got four kids, and I don't like to drink a lot, so I haven't been to the bar in a long time, and I don't necessarily know...

Jim Carr: I'm sorry.

Jason Zenger: ...what's going on at the boring bar either, but one of the things that I do know is that if you want great information for making chips, in addition to this podcast, we've got news articles, and they're really well written. They're not written by Jim or I, so they're well-written. They're written by other people on our team, and we've got videos and everything. All you have to do is text chips, c-h-i-p-s to three-eight-four-seven-zero, do it now. That's chips to three-eight-four-seven-zero, and you will get the boring bar. And you will also be the first person to know when we actually introduce the physical boring bar, our MakingChips bar.

Jim Carr: Oh, the brand logo branding, the branding.

Jason Zenger: No.

Jim Carr: Oh, the real bar where you can get a beer.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, and we will invite you out there if you are on that list.

Jim Carr: I can not wait, that sounds great.

Jason Zenger: So what do you have for manufacturing news, Jim?

Jim Carr: It's called the future of the factory, which is relevant to what we're going to be talking to Craig about today, and it's all about what does the shop floor of the future look like. Again, we talked to our friend [Ackshot 00:08:05] from Ampere in one of our last episodes about IIOT and AI, and again, this news article from Packaging Strategies magazine goes into that, but I thought we would revisit it again because Craig is going to be talking about why he developed this cobot technology to sell as a product to shop floors, and how it really can automate and make them run more efficiently, and I can't wait to hear what the brainchild was behind this because, man, it seems like a big task to do that. But what do you think? What do you think of the shop floor? What do you think Carr Machine & Tool is going to look like in five to 10 years?

Jason Zenger: Well, I think there's a couple of things that you probably are going to implement. I think you're going to have some kind of automation, maybe robotics. I think that'll probably be one of the last things, but I just think this whole notion of data collection and utilization is going to be part of your future, and I think you need to do it, and that's going to be part of the factory of the future.

Jim Carr: Right. Well, we've already implemented the ERP system, which is we run on tablets and PC stations through the entire shop, and it keeps everybody, every single person in this shop, is 100% engaged all the time. They know exactly how to set up a job. They're clicking through the setups, completions, and everything's constantly happening. There's 100% engagement with the entire team all happening simultaneously.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, and I think doing that paperless is... you're definitely a step ahead so that's good that you're doing it.

Jim Carr: It's been fun. So that's really what the article talks about, and it goes on to say what they're doing in China, and I really don't care because all I really care about is what's going on here in the United States. I do care what's going on in China, but I'm really more interested in what's happening here.

Jason Zenger: Well, you don't speak Mandarin or Cantonese?

Jim Carr: I do not. I barely speak Spanish...

Jason Zenger: Or English.

Jim Carr: Yeah or English, sometimes I...

Jason Zenger: You have a lot of trouble.

Jim Carr: Yeah, I do. I really do.

Jason Zenger: So Jim, we're ready to introduce our guests, and we are not interviewing a robot. We're actually interviewing a very dynamic manufacturing leader today, who is hosting this great event. So why don't you...

Jim Carr: Is he more dynamic than I am?

Jason Zenger: Yes, he is actually.

Jim Carr: Really?

Jason Zenger: Introduced him right now.

Jim Carr: He might be smarter, but I bet he's not more dynamic, but no, today's guests is no stranger to MakingChips. He has been with us before on episodes 46 and 47, where he shared his core values and the ecosystem of his business. He was even part of a guest panel at IMTS 2018 in the grand concourse stage.

Jim Carr: He has offered invaluable insight to the Metal Working Nation, and as a true manufacturing leader in many ways. Today, we are privileged to be invited here to unveil the latest in shop floor automation, the cobot. Please welcome Craig to his own studio today. It's our remote studio. Craig Zoberis is president of Fusion OEM. Craig, how you doing?

Craig Zoberis: Great, thanks for having me.

Jim Carr: How's things looking so far for today?

Craig Zoberis: Well, we... A little bit more than expected. We anticipated 150 manufacturing leaders here, and we got 196 to show up, so really good turnout.

Jason Zenger: You're not going to have any of those goodie bags left for Jim and I, are you?

Craig Zoberis: We'll have something else, a special goodie bag for you.

Jim Carr: Thank you Craig. I appreciate that. I'm just... give me a beer. That's all I need.

Craig Zoberis: [crosstalk 00:11:23]

Jim Carr: I'll be happy if I just have a beer and maybe a taco. I love the taco truck that you brought in. That's awesome. So Craig, again, congratulations on hosting such a great show. It certainly is going to equip and inspire anyone who attends. Instead of us telling the Metal Working Nation about you, why don't you tell the Metal Working Nation about you, and how did you get your start in manufacturing? What was your ah ha moment? Why did you start Fusion OEM?

Jason Zenger: And what's been the iterations now that we're here today?

Jim Carr: Why are we here today? I'd like to know. I know why we're here, but I really want to know what was that ah ha moment? When did the light bulb go off? So go ahead please.

Craig Zoberis: Okay, so my Undergrad is in engineering, and I worked for my father's company, and he had a fantastic engineering company, had 75 engineers working there and really loved engineering. But I thought I found something that's more interesting. It was the manufacturing side of the world, and so started my company, left his in 2002 to start Fusion, and it was an assembly facility, so it was build to print products that we did for them. Our customers, who are OEMs. And over time, we added machining. The reason we did that was we wanted to control a lot of our schedules. And so, we brought machining in house, which I was using on the outside before.

Craig Zoberis: Over time, we built the company up from five people in about 2005, and then we hit a high of about 50 people, and just recently, it was last year. It was about April of 2018. We had the opportunity to understand a little bit more about cobotics, and I was getting Instagram posts from people from our production floor. They were saying, "Hey, these cobots could help us.", and I'm like, I couldn't put two and two together. Part of it was talking about the waste on the floor, and one of the wastes that are on the floor, you've heard of transportation waste over production defects, et cetera. And, one of the other ones is they call it human capital, but better yet, Sam Bouchard said in one book human potential, and that's when everything clicked, and when Davin, who's with us today, was very instrumental in sending those Instagram posts. I'll let him tell that story.

Jim Carr: Davin, what's your role here at Fusion?

Davin Erickson: I'm Davin Erickson, the machine shop manager. We had seen it many years at IMTS and social media. Obviously, Instagram has become pretty popular for the instant machinist hashtag.

Jim Carr: Yes, it has.

Davin Erickson: You can see lots and lots of examples of people's work, and a lot of that started to include cobots in the past couple of years, so between the Instagram and YouTube and articles and modern machine shop cutting tool engineering, production, machining, tried to keep funneling those to Craig, trying to show examples of how this could help us.

Jim Carr: Inspire him to make some change.

Davin Erickson: Exactly.

Jim Carr: Yeah, so Davin sending you all these Instagram, these DMs, I would imagine, right? And you're opening up, and you're saying, "This guy's crazy.", what messages is he sending you? So what were you getting? Were you saying he's nuts? Should I get this? Who's gonna do it? How was it that we're going to implement it? Is it going to take away human resources and replace them with cobots? First and foremost, what's the difference between a robot and a cobot?

Misa: The main difference is that collaborative robots are a subcategory of industrial robots. They are designed to operate around people, so 80% of the robots we deployed in the field don't have hard guarding around the robot, right? So that enables you to deploy the robot in a much smaller footprint. It also enables you to keep the integration costs of that robot low because you don't need all the bells and whistles that go around the robot. So that's the safety aspect. But it's a twofold definition. The other definition of the collaborative robot is to collaborate with people.

Misa: Not only work around them, but actually operators could pick up a [inaudible 00:15:04] and program the robot, right? So a human operator has never touched a robot before, they could pick up the [inaudible 00:15:10] for our robot and program it fairly quickly, which isn't necessarily the case with your traditional industrial robots.

Jason Zenger: So you don't need to hire a consultant, or somebody like that to program it. You'd literally, somebody on the shop floor could do it.

Misa: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: It's that intuitive.

Misa: At the programming, absolutely. It's very intuitive.

Jason Zenger: And that really brings the costs of integrating a cobot down significantly, probably more than half.

Misa: Absolutely. Yeah.

Craig Zoberis: And going back to your original question there about what did we see when this happened? And I said, "Oh, well, we saw automation", and I think we represent most American machine shops right now where there's a lot of baby boomers, and then there's a lot of millennials working, and there's not a lot in between.

Jim Carr: I agree with that 100%.

Jason Zenger: I'm from that in between generation.

Craig Zoberis: You're in between.

Jim Carr: Where did you come from, Zenger?

Jason Zenger: I don't know. I'm from that in between generation, and yeah, there's... None of my peers are in manufacturing.

Craig Zoberis: Right. So what's interesting is the millennials are embracing it, and we always thought, or at least I thought, well, we can have people be machine operators, and they'll over time, almost by osmosis, or just being in front of a machine all the time, they'll learn how to become a machinist, but it takes this long process, very long process.

Craig Zoberis: And that's when the ah ha moment occurred, Jim, is when Davin explained it to me, and he said, "Why don't we put the robots in front of the machines and attend the machines while we can focus on these millennials and train them." It could be from online training. It could be shadowing, job shadowing. It could just be doing other work that is more human-like, that's more cerebral than just what we call robotic motion of putting parts in a machine, taking parts out of a machine. So that was one of the reasons that we said, "Hey, if that's one way we can be more competitive, let's put one in place and try it out."

Jim Carr: So let's talk about the metrics. Craig. I know this is really important data on what NAM, the National Association of Manufacturing, is saying about the manufacturing and the workforce, and we all know, I mean everyone knows the pain, that there's a huge skills gap out there, right? So I see that you have the data in front of you. What are they saying about manufacturing and the skills gap, and why don't you read off some of those? Because it's really sobering, quite frankly.

Craig Zoberis: Yeah, it was quite sobering when I saw this. So universal robots put out a nice white paper, which included things from NAM, and one of them was about, let's call it the baby boomer generation, which is age 55 to 64. They represent 65.5% of the labor pool today. And 22...

Jason Zenger: 65%, wow.

Craig Zoberis: And 22 to 27% of the nation's manufacturing workforce, which is incredible. So to fill in that gap, we got a lot of work to do, and if it's training people up or putting automation in, those are the two items that I believe we're trying to address right now.

Jim Carr: I know it's staggering to read, and it's staggering to hear, and there was one other sentence in that piece of material that says that means that a 1000 person manufacturing company needs to attract 220 to 270 new workers just to fill retirement vacancies. Wow. That's scary. That means we need to, we as manufacturing leaders, need to do something. We really need to be proactive about this if we want to see this industry flourish in the future and be the powerhouse that we are in this country. So now that we've defined the metrics, tell us what you thought after Davin sending you all these Instagrams, you're getting all this data back, and you're putting it all together in your head, and you said to yourself, what do I need to do?

Craig Zoberis: So we said, "Hey, let's dip our toe in the water.", and we bought one of the robots. We bought a UR five from Universal Robots, and we installed it in I would call it the Rube Goldberg way of doing it. To test out the concept, we had the robot open the doors for the machine, place the part inside the machine. We had to learn a little bit about clamping. And then, we just tested it out, and we found that this proves to have some value, and then fast forward to today, our machining processes at the same timeframe. So how long the part takes to manufacture inside the machine is exactly the same because we're a high mix, low volume contract manufacturer with a lot of repeat work. So we had a lot of information on how we did on each one of our jobs.

Craig Zoberis: So what we've discovered fast forward, and again today, is that we're 26 to 32% less time on the production floor just because we don't have an operator in front of it. Rather we have a robot because it's consistent, doesn't take breaks. It's not slowing down, just from the pace of a human. It's human's nature that you're going to might slow down or speed up during a day. But we found that doing a little bit of those time studies at that time discovered that this is a real value that we can put on the production floor.

Jason Zenger: And how long did it take until you're actually fully utilizing that cobot?

Davin Erickson: We ended up changing up parts fairly quickly. Within a couple of days, working out, like Craig said, the workholding and the mounting and our table situation. It went very fast.

Jim Carr: Davin, what kind of machine did you put your first cobot or robot on? Was it a turning center? Was it a three-axis CNC?

Davin Erickson: It was a three-axis VMC, a Haas VF-2.

Jim Carr: And what was it doing? What did you program the robot to do other... We know it opened the door. We know it grabbed the part. Did it open the chalk? Did it open the vice? Did it open the fixture? How sophisticated was this process?

Davin Erickson: We added some Kurt Hydraulic vices initially.

Jim Carr: Okay. Okay.

Davin Erickson: And then some Airvices, Airvice brand vices. The robot opened the door, pressed the button, but everything else, the robot actually handled the workholding, but just through the IO on there, so it didn't actually close the vice. It just sent a signal to close the vice.

Jim Carr: Okay. That's what I wanted to hear.

Davin Erickson: Or programming, picking it up from the array on our little makeshift board in the beginning, putting it in the vice. Robot's telling it to close the vice, and then it's pulling back, closing the door, hitting the green button.

Jim Carr: The start button.

Davin Erickson: The start button.

Jim Carr: Hit it and then repeat.

Davin Erickson: Right.

Jim Carr: Just do the process again. So what kind of volume were you doing with that? Was it 10? Was it 20? Was it 1.000? Was it 10,000?

Davin Erickson: Initially, we started out with some jobs that were under a hundred pieces.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Davin Erickson: We were experimenting there, and we still do jobs that are less than a hundred pieces, especially if they have a longer lead to our cycle time.

Jim Carr: Oh, the cycle time is a key component then?

Davin Erickson: Correct. Especially, for first stop stuff where we're taking raw stock, just rectangular chunks of bar stock.

Jim Carr: Yep.

Davin Erickson: It's very easy to change the program from one part to another, so we were able to do as few as 20, 30 pieces. Even have a relatively simple low cycle time part and just change it over in 20 to 30 minutes to get to the next one.

Jason Zenger: Jim, I thought you said you were busy.

Jim Carr: We are, Jason. We're going to have a great year.

Jason Zenger: I'm looking around, and I don't see any messy desks. I don't see any paper thrown about, tell me what's going on.

Jim Carr: Well, first and foremost, it's part of our culture that we have low paper, but since we've been using ProShop ERP, the whole tactic behind using that ERP system is to go completely paperless, and we are dramatically reducing our paper flow through the entire facility.

Jason Zenger: So you're not quite there yet, but the goal is to be totally paperless.

Jim Carr: We're not quite there yet, but we've only been using ProShop now for about nine months.

Jason Zenger: Well, I gotta be honest. Most manufacturing leaders, when I go into their offices, there's stuff all over the place, prints and everything.

Jim Carr: I think it just creates a clean system. If everyone knows how to utilize the system efficiently, then the paperless thing will work. Yes, it's hard for an old school guy like me to not have that print in my hand, but at the end of the day, we're moving in that direction.

Jason Zenger: So go to for more information.

Jim Carr: You can call our good friend, Paul.

Jim Carr: When did you decide, Craig, that this is when you wanted to start developing your own product line because that's really why everyone is here today. This is the unveiling of the FCO One and the FCO Six. I don't know if there's any other model numbers in between that.

Craig Zoberis: There are, yeah.

Jim Carr: So is it one through six, or is it one through ten.

Craig Zoberis: Yeah, one through six, and our goal is to have ten total standard solutions that we can offer our customers of a integrated solution. The ah ha moment came a few months afterwards, and when I met Misa from Universal Robots, we had a conversation about this is unique. We are having a hard time bringing on a new business on our assembly department. And I said, "Oh, well, how can we fortify new business in that area?", so a lot of the discussions came in and said, "Hey, well, why don't we recalibrate our people that are on our assembly department and engineering department to do systems integration, taking standard universal robots and integrate them into the CNCs for other customers?"

Craig Zoberis: And I said, "That's a great idea.", so we spent, oh gosh Davin, you were a part of this. It was probably about three months of strategy discussions, one way or another, about how this would work. But Misa put some metrics to it and saw the opportunities there for us and said, "Hey, well, Fusion would be a great company to be a Universal Robots certified systems integrator because you have the team. You also have a showroom of the product being demonstrated, and also you have a laboratory where you can test different unique ways of trying to do machine tending in a CNC application."

Jason Zenger: So besides machine tending, what are the other obvious applications for a machine shop to utilize this type of product?

Jim Carr: Why should I get one in my shop?

Misa: Obviously, machine tending, pick and place, loading and unloading equipment is probably number one application that robots in general are deployed in machine shops, right?

Jason Zenger: Yeah, those are the big obvious ones. We've talked about those a bunch.

Misa: And then, we could do deburring, polishing, sanding, quality inspection of the components, but it really depends what size parts you're making. If you're making a giant part that has eight hours cycle time, and you got to load it into a CMM machine, you can put a sensor on the end of the robot that will inspect a component. Either a visual sensor or a CMM at the end of the arm that will measure that part, right? So if you have operators manually doing that measurements, you could potentially automate that process, but you have customers that are doing finishing, the secondary finishing of the part after the parts are coming off the machine. They are doing polishing, deburring, sanding, any secondary operation that needs to be done after it's a machine.

Jason Zenger: You've mentioned before that these cobots eliminate the 3Ds. Can you explain what that is?

Misa: So the intention is to eliminate the dull, dirty and dangerous, right?

Jim Carr: Dull, dirty and dangerous. Great. Well, it's true.

Jason Zenger: You encompass two of those Ds. Jim's dull and dirty.

Jim Carr: Yeah.

Jason Zenger: Yeah.

Jim Carr: Yeah.

Misa: So typically from what we've seen is the first application should be looking at... it's obviously the one that are extremely dangerous, right? You have ergonomic issues. You have safety issues or it's application that you have to automate it because [inaudible 00:26:57] might come in and take a look at the processes, and say "This is not safe.", right? But if I'm experienced also, the lowest hanging fruits are typically the applications that are very dull. If you have an operator doing a task for three, four or five hours a day really not using their brains, that is a very good process to automate first, right? Loading and unloading equipment typically falls under that category.

Misa: Dirty and dangerous typically go hand in hand. If an operation is dangerous, it's typically dirty, right? So those are the three Ds that we try to have customers focus on and try to automate.

Jim Carr: So what about uptime, Craig? If I were to go one of these in my shop tomorrow, and if I had a right fit for it, I believe it's all about the right fit. Absolutely. And I don't know that yet, but I would imagine there's probably the right fit because I know when I take a job into my shop, if it's the right fit for car, it might not be the right fit for another machine shop. But what is the uptime? So once that hits the floor, once we take it off the lift with the lift truck and drop it on the floor, and that the stopwatch starts going, how long before it's loading parts and hitting the cycle start?

Craig Zoberis: So I'll tell you one interesting thing is that we're offering cobotic solutions for CNCs, and we're delivering them within 10 to 15 business days. So we're delivering them. So what's unique about our offering too, we're in the Chicago land area, and we're serving pretty much a hundred mile radius of here. We're reaching down to Indianapolis, out to Rockford, up to Milwaukee, but we'll deliver this machine, let's call it a Monday. We'll deliver it. That same two people that will deliver that machine will place it in position, wire it into your CNC and bolt it to the floor, get the machines talking to each other, and we'll start by the end of that day, be able to start demonstrating how we can start indexing parts into the machine. The second day, we would then start doing what we call basic training, and it would be a job shadow of how we would program the machine, show the customers best practices of actually doing machine tending.

Craig Zoberis: And we'll spend a whole day with them doing this work. And the third day, we would follow back up and be present there, and we hopefully, they kick us out by lunchtime.

Jim Carr: That's great.

Craig Zoberis: So it's like a Wednesday afternoon. So from a Monday to a Wednesday afternoon, we should be having a machine tending solution working on a production floor.

Jim Carr: Fantastic. So you mentioned that they talk to each other, the CNC machine and the robot. How do they talk to each other? Do they talking to different language? Do they talk in Spanish? Do they talk in French? They talk in Jason's language?

Jason Zenger: They talk in Zeros and ones.

Jim Carr: Yes, dow do they communicate?

Craig Zoberis: Yeah, so there's simple inputs and outputs that we're working off of with the control.

Jim Carr: Is it like GNM code programming.

Craig Zoberis: Some of it is, what is it, Davin that there's more you know about this than I do?

Davin Erickson: We're using inputs and outputs on both the robot and the machine, and then there is some modification to the CNC program, the G code itself, and then also a little bit of the robot.

Jim Carr: Do you have to add another board to your CNC machine or...

Davin Erickson: We haven't yet. There are some machines that, obviously with all the options that are available on different CNCs, they use up all the available M codes there. Most machine manufacturers offer a piggyback board there that offers more M codes there. So that may be something that is required.

Jim Carr: I gotcha. Okay.

Craig Zoberis: There's also some unique ways of doing it too. In some applications, if the machine is incapable of communicating through its board, it's like we mentioned before, we've actually used the push button station to hit the green button to go. We've done that. We've used the robot to open and close the door, but now we have auto doors to offer to. So there's a lot of different ways, and I think it's every job could be unique depending on the application. Some of the applications that we're doing are not even CNC machines. So we've done ones with floating, tapping open systems that are all kinds of simple looking, bridgeport type machines or drill presses or whatever. The commander machines I believe they are.

Jim Carr: What about installing heli-coils?

Craig Zoberis: Heli-coils.

Jim Carr: Yes.

Craig Zoberis: That's a good...

Jim Carr: Because I've got a job that we've got to put thousands of heli-coils.

Jason Zenger: You have to turn that installation tool. [crosstalk 00:31:01]

Jim Carr: No, there is heli-coil insertion tools that are pneumatic, but maybe we can get the robot to actually fricking do it, you know? That would be awesome.

Craig Zoberis: Yeah, so they're using robots in screw applications, right? So it's the same idea, right here, Misa.

Misa: Yeah, the robot is limited by the amount of force that it can apply, so if it's a hydraulic press, I'm not familiar with that process, right? The robot is only capable of producing about 250 newtons of force, right? So it's about 50 pounds of force if you want to apply it to something. So if it's more than that, typically the collaborative robot might not be the option.

Jim Carr: In real terms, what does 250 newtons of force mean? Is it the force behind closing a six inch vise, or how do I translate that? Because I don't know what 250 newtons of... What does that feel like?

Misa: A 50 pound weight.

Jim Carr: Oh, okay. Oh, that's pretty significant.

Jason Zenger: In your application, it's mostly the pneumatic tool that's doing the work of the installation.

Jim Carr: Yeah, the pneumatic tool is going to be actually doing...

Jason Zenger: So you essentially would just want that cobot to be bringing that tool down.

Jim Carr: Right. Exactly.

Jason Zenger: And then, the tool does the work at that point.

Craig Zoberis: Yeah, so some of the screw applications you've seen, these arms that they hold the screwdriver, the tool there, but they use the robot to actually move it into position, so that it's like an assist. So you're actually turning your system into a CNC.

Jim Carr: Gotcha.

Jason Zenger: So Craig, we've talked about cobotics, robotics on the show a lot, and you've obviously, you've delved into there. You've made a commitment that this is going to be part of your future, and you run your own machine shops, so what would be your advice for the manufacturing leaders out there? Just a few things to lead them with if they're there on the fence about cobots working in there, being a part of their future. What's your advice to the Metal Working Nation in order to get started?

Craig Zoberis: Wow, that's a loaded question. I believe you need to start working into the ecosystem. It's a very transparent ecosystem. People that have put robotics in are celebrating it.

Jason Zenger: They want to talk about it.

Craig Zoberis: They want to talk about it. They want to share it. And it's how we just talked about Instagram. You'll see all these things, they get inspired by it. Go see other people that had put cobots in. That's another one. The other one is look for a win on the floor. There's a lot of applications that we look at with our prospective customers, and they want to do too much, and it's like...

Jason Zenger: So look for the easy win I think is what you're saying.

Craig Zoberis: Yeah, look for an easy win, and just so you can get used to it because it is a mind shift. It's a paradigm shift for manufacturing to do this. So try something simple, and you might say, "Oh, I can't justify it", but to test that out. That would be my first recommendation. And the second recommendation is try it. Worst case is maybe you've automated the heck out of one process, but not everything, but you've got to chip away at it. We're not looking and saying, "Hey, we're going to become this much more efficient overnight." We have to do it step by step, and I think that's a key thing to remember is to go slowly through it, look for easy wins. And again, like I said before, just go out there and visit other people that have put robotics in.

Jim Carr: And then, come to the showroom here at Fusion in Burr Ridge and see. You're going to have them here for demos at anytime somebody wants to.

Craig Zoberis: Yeah. Even if someone's not going to buy a solution from us, I welcome them. I want to show them how this is this is part of the ecosystem that we have in cobotics. I think that Davin and also Misa could agree that it's probably a very... Not everybody's keeping this a secret. I think everybody is really shouting from the mountain tops that this is the way the future's going to be.

Jim Carr: Without a doubt.

Jason Zenger: You've got to get with the future.

Jim Carr: Yeah, you bet. Absolutely. Craig, thanks so much for inviting us into your facility today, and it's a great conference. I'm sure you're going to equip and inspire the 195 people that are going to be here on your floor and the thousands of people that just listened to the show today. Thank you for being a leader in our industry, and we look forward to working together in the future.

Craig Zoberis: Well, thank you for inspiring everybody else out there in the manufacturing world.

Jim Carr: Thanks.

Craig Zoberis: We appreciate all the work that you guys do here too.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, and if the Metal Working Nation wants to hear more from Craig, what are those other episodes, Jim, that they can listen to.

Jim Carr: I don't know what the episode number he was on with the IMTS guest panel, but that was...

Jason Zenger: 46 and 47 are good.

Jim Carr: 46 and 47 are really... It's Craig all alone talking about his ecosystem and the core values, and I have to tell you that inspired me to create my core values at Carr Machine & Tool as well, and it's been very significant change for us, so thank you.

Jason Zenger: So Jim, are you ready to buy cobots, so you can work on that heli-coil.

Jim Carr: I definitely want to go see it. I definitely want to see if there's an application because literally we do have a job that is coming up. We've got a huge job that we're running, and every single part... One part has 100 heli-coils in it.

Jason Zenger: You've talked to me about how...

Jim Carr: And we've got 120 parts.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, you've talked to me about how dull that application is, but it needs to be done.

Jim Carr: It's just arduous...

Jason Zenger: So maybe this is a good...

Jim Carr: It's really labor intensive.

Jason Zenger: to start.

Jim Carr: So, maybe there's an application for that, and we can talk it through and see if there's a fix or a fit more importantly, but anyway, we're MakingChips today, man, because...

Jason Zenger: If you're not making chips...

Jim Carr: You're not making money. Bam.

Speaker 6: As always, thank you for listening to the MakingChips podcast. You need to increase the speed and feed of your business. If you're not elevating your manufacturing leadership, you're going to get left behind. The Metal Working Nation is committed to a new way to stay ahead of the competition. We have more content to help you make and elevate at Gain access to exclusive content as well as videos, blogs, show notes, and more resources designed to equip and inspire you. We'll see you next time.

Jason Zenger: Do you want to get some tacos after we're done here.

Jim Carr: I want a beer.

Jason Zenger: Oh, you already... Okay got it.

Jim Carr: I want a beer. Did you ever decide I want a beer?

Jason Zenger: Yeah.

Jim Carr: I want a beer.

Jason Zenger: Is it recording?

Jim Carr: It is recording.

Jason Zenger: Yeah.


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