SMB Seng Heng Engineering chose Universal Robots to improve its production output

Editor’s brief: The COVID event worldwide has certainly caused major ripples across diverse industries. Some had to fold despite having been around a long time. However, some managed to transform and survived. One such example is Singapore-based Seng Heng Engineering, which chose to automate to improve its production output. Seng Heng Engineering chose Universal Robots’ cobots and managed to improve its production output by 50% within 3 months. Read more below.

SINGAPORE – Universal Robots (UR), the global leader in the rapidly growing market of collaborative robots (cobots), has enabled business continuity and improved production output for Singapore-based manufacturer Seng Heng Engineering during disruptive periods with the successful deployment of two cobots in the production line.

Pandemic causing massive labour shortages

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a set of challenges for the manufacturing industry. The closure of borders, shutdowns of factories, and restrictions on movements had ground operations within Asia Pacific to a halt. Besides facing the unappealing prospect of shuttering facilities, manufacturers were also facing massive labour shortages since the onset of the pandemic. These challenges are prompting manufacturers to embrace automation and robots to ensure business continuity during such uncertain times. Especially in the Asia Pacific region, it was reported that Asia remains the world’s largest industrial robot market. According to the International Federation of Robotics, a total of 354,500 units were shipped in 2021, a rise of 33 percent compared to 2020.

Challenges faced by Seng Heng Engineering

Seng Heng Engineering, a Singapore-based third-generation manufacturer with 70 years of experience, is a single-source solution provider of fasteners, turnkey machining, and corrosion-resistant coating products.

During the pandemic, Seng Heng Engineering faced unprecedented disruptions to their workforce. This prompted them to consider automating some functions to ease the production bottlenecks caused by labour shortages and uncertainties.

Seng Heng Engineering manufactures customised connectors such as high-quality bolts and nuts, that fasten critical onshore, offshore, and subsea safety oil and gas equipment. Each of the fasteners is engraved with information such as part number, material information and serial number for ease of reference and traceability. With a shortage of manpower, the highly intensive processes resulted in declining efficiency in the engraving processes. As one of the few fastener companies in Southeast Asia to be certified by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to produce critical bolting for the oil and gas industry, regional industries and supply chain are dependable on Seng Heng Engineering for dependable and quality connections in their equipment.

Successful deployment at Seng Heng Engineering

With safety being one of the key aspects for the manufacturer, cobots have become a viable solution. Cobots are capable of working alongside human employees safely, without the need for safety cages (upon risk assessment). Traditionally, the loading and unloading of fasteners into the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines were conducted manually. Hence, the deployment of cobots relieve human employees from the repetitive processes that may take up to five minutes before the completion of each fastener.

“Initially, our employees were skeptical about deploying cobots in the production line, with the fear that cobots may take over their jobs eventually. Now, our employees have fully understood that cobots are relieving them from monotonous tasks so that they can work on tasks that require their cognitive skills. Even employees with no background in programming are capable of operating a cobot. In a short period of three months, we have seen significant achievements thanks to the successful deployment of cobots,” said Jackie.

Dedicated engineering support from Aubotic

The certified system integrator, Aubotic, has delivered superior engineering support and created an ecosystem that allows for ease of deployment at Seng Heng Engineering. After implementing two UR10e cobots, with UR+ certified Onrobot electric grippers as end effectors to assist with the CNC and engraving machines, Seng Heng Engineering experienced a 50 percent increase in productivity and efficiency on the production line within three months.

Since the adoption of cobots, the company can accept many orders with a short lead time of three to five days. Before, Seng Heng Engineering used to have only one shift and added a second shift for CNC section due to stringent social distancing measures. With cobots in place, operations on the second shift continue running as the cobot helps to supplement the lean manpower during the night shift, and the company benefits from clearing the bottlenecks by keeping the machines running. With the cobots, orders can be completed within a short lead time and without any operational disruptions.

“We have witnessed a significant increase in productivity and efficiency after the implementation of two UR10e cobots to automate the CNC and engraving processes. In addition, the cobots are capable of working around the clock in tandem with our employees, relieving them from working on dull and monotonous tasks,” says Jackie Lau, Managing Director, Seng Heng Engineering.

As Seng Heng Engineering embraces automation as a primary enabler of an intelligent workforce and effective throughput, it is looking into deploying more cobots in the near future.