Based in St Louis, MO, BEC Machining provides close-tolerance machining and engineering services to US manufacturers spanning telecommunications, medical devices, pharmaceutical, aerospace, and defense.
Tending tip shear on high-volume part runs
40,000 unit orders that required tedious and repetitive parts feeding (such as tending the tip shear) were burning out BEC’s skilled workforce. BEC wanted to automate these tasks to free up their workers to perform higher value tasks and also reduce production times by extending machine uptime into the third shift.
In 2008 they purchased a new FANUC R2000ib – a big industrial robot with a 165kg payload and a 2655mm reach. They had no robot programming experience, but with many engineers on staff, they assumed that they could figure it out. With some initial setup support from the robot distributor, they were able to get the robot into production. However, they ran into problems when they needed to change over the part. With no experience programming in Karel, FANUC’s native programming language, BEC struggled to update the robot programming to handle new parts. They also could not troubleshoot inevitable issues that arose, and they could not reprogram the robot for new projects. Consequently, the robot had remained largely unused over the past ten years.
In 2019 Mike Beaudrexl, the owner of BEC, heard about Forge OS from another READY customer. He ordered a READY Forge/Ctrl on the spot, based on the premise that it would enable them to program their FANUC, and finally free up his skilled workers to focus on higher value activities. The Forge/Ctrl is a pre-integrated panel including pneumatics, a PLC, and fieldbus protocols that connects directly to the robot. A Forge/Ctrl Bundle includes a touchscreen teach pendant running Forge/OS that replaces the FANUC’s own teach pendant. Forge/OS is a user-friendly, cross-brand robot programming application. Once the Forge/Ctrl was connected to the FANUC controller, and the FANUC could be controlled via the Forge/OS intuitive programming interface. BEC got to work programming their first task: tending a tip shear machine.
The FANUC that had sat motionless for the better part of ten years was programmed by BEC within hours. “Solving parts presentation was more work than programming the robot!” says Baudrexl. The tip shearing task that his machinists dreaded, was now fully automated. Not only were they able to reduce production time on this job, BEC’s most valuable resource, their skilled workers, were freed up to perform much higher value tasks: preparing machines for upcoming jobs, improving production processes, and tending to higher precision parts that require more skilled knowledge. Forge OS gave them the flexibility to rapidly program for new jobs and changing parts. The flow-chart based programs empower BEC to rapidly touch up programs, and troubleshoot any issues that arise, by stepping through the programs to identify the trouble spot. The timing of their Forge OS deployment couldn’t have been better. Deploying in 2019, they were in a much better position to respond to the much shorter production runs, tighter timelines, and reduced margins that came with COVID-19. Their increased production capacity and efficiency have put BEC better positioned to win new jobs and deliver their trademark high-tolerance high-service parts production that their customers have come to depend on. Their team has also never been happier. “Everyone on the production floor loves Forge OS. It’s a tool they are comfortable with. And it’s a tool that makes their jobs easier than ever,” says Baudrexl.