EWI Helps Tablet Manufacturer Incorporate Cobotics in Production

When the New York-based company Bak USA decided to enhance and expand its production facility, it turned to EWI’s Buffalo Manufacturing Works for a strategic evaluation of its operations. “They came in, audited our systems, and then proposed some really unique ways of doing exactly what we had been doing – just better, faster, and more efficiently,” said Christian Bak, Chief Technology Officer.

The EWI/Bak partnership
EWI and Bak staffers involved in the cobotics initiative

One of the resulting recommendations from EWI’s “Advanced Manufacturing Implementation Strategy” assessment was to introduce cobots – human collaborative robots – into Bak’s production process. Bak, a manufacturer dedicated to making high-quality, affordable computers (and the only U.S. company that actually manufactures its tablets domestically) recognized that automation could improve both production efficiency and quality. But how would it affect its workforce? “The operators at first were hesitant,” reported Larry Militello, Bak’s Production Manager. “They didn’t know if this was going to be replacing their jobs.”

Bak operators work alongside the Kawasaki cobot in the company's workshop
Bak operators work alongside the Kawasaki cobot in the company’s workshop

What Bak discovered, however, was that cobots on the line can help their human co-workers devote more time doing work that requires skill and judgement. When cobots perform the repetitive and ergonomically challenging tasks – like putting dozens of screws into the backs of every laptop – operators can concentrate on set-up and part preparation, product customization, and assembly completion. “It’s a fantastic example of how a company can leverage technology while enabling – and not hurting – the workforce,” said Buffalo Manufacturing Works President Michael Ulbrich.

The Bak family cuts the ribbon on its expanded facility
The Bak family cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of its expanded facility

The partnership between Bak and EWI’s Buffalo team will remain close as Bak adds 10-15 more Kawasaki robots onto its line in the coming months. The tablet maker expects that full implementation of the cobotics program will make its assembly process 30% more efficient. Want a peek into the process? To view the grand opening of Bak’s Advanced Manufacturing Product Workshop, click here.

Workshop2If you would like to learn more about EWI’s manufacturing advisory services including the “Advanced Manufacturing Implementation Strategy” service, contact Michael Ulbrich at mulbrich@ewi.org.

For information about our cobot and automation capabilities, contact Ron Brown at rbrown@ewi.org.

Exploring the Flexible Manufacturing Toolbox

Estimates predict that 25% of all manufacturing functions will be automated by the year 2025. To prepare for this evolution, manufacturers must equip themselves with the right tools.

We’ve created a new infographic on the technologies and capabilities that make up our flexible automation toolbox. What’s inside the toolbox?

  • Design & Simulation
  • Robotics
  • Controls & Sensing
  • Automated Inspection & Nondestructive Evaluation

At Buffalo Manufacturing Works, we develop, simulate, prototype, and validate agile automation and controls solutions to help manufacturers solve their toughest challenges. If you’re interested in leveraging our flexible automation technologies to improve quality, increase processing speed, and reduce costs, give us a call at (716) 710-550 or email info@buffalomanufacturingworks.com.