When you're running a production facility, it can be hard to know when it’s the right time to add robotic welding to your assembly line.
The questions can add up: How do you know when it's time to make the switch? How can you justify the cost to other departments or company executives? Here's what you should consider when making your decision.
Signs It’s Time to Buy a Welding Robot
There can be any number of reasons to buy a robotic welding system, but how do you know when you should take the plunge?
Here are a few questions to ask about your business:
- Has there been a decrease in available skilled welders in your area due to higher employment rates or migration?
- Are hourly rates going up because of increased costs of living?
- Are you starting to produce items that would be too difficult for an average welder to reach or weld effectively or safely?
- Are you unable to take on the jobs you really want because of limited production capacity?
All of these are signs that you may be a good candidate to implement robotic welding.
The Coming Welding Labor Shortage
The dwindling skilled labor pool is one reason that many companies are making the switch to automation. Consider that by 2024, there will be a shortage of approximately 400,000 welders, according to the American Welding Society.
There are a few reasons for this. Older welders are retiring, and younger people just entering the workforce are generally not choosing manufacturing jobs.
Another issue is the relative location of most welding jobs in America. Most of those 400,000 empty jobs? They’ll be concentrated in the Midwest, the nation’s manufacturing and fabrication hub, while the overall population of the Midwest continues to dwindle.
“The labor shortage is coming, and there’s not much we can do about it. And some welding companies are supporting trade schools and driving kids back into welding, but those things aren’t going to take effect for a decade,” said Chris Sharp, Regional Sales Manager for OTC DAIHEN. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
How Can I Justify the Cost of Automation?
Even once you feel it’s time for your company to try robotic automation, the perceived cost may hold you back. Fears of a high price tag prevent many people from even considering a robot purchase.
However, instead of making a decision based entirely on the sticker price of that shiny new piece of equipment, it’s more important to understand the ROI of that purchase.
By far, labor is the biggest cost for manufacturing companies. If the average welder wage is $25 an hour, and you add in benefits, that’s costing you about $50 per hour. Combine that with the inefficiency and inconsistency inherent in human work and the costs quickly add up.
“Most frequently, we see a robot pay for itself in labor savings costs in about 24 months,” said Sharp. “As soon as they pay off the robot, it’s just windfall. And that’s where the savings kick in.”
A smart way to help pay off that robot cost quickly is to amortize it across costs for your next job. For example, depending on the cost of a part, you might add $10 per part to your proposal. Spread over hundreds or thousands of parts, that can quickly help you realize a return on your investment.
A good robot manufacturer can help you analyze these costs and provide guidance on making the right choice for your business to maximize your return.
More Ways to Justify a Robot Purchase
Knowing when to buy a welding robot for your assembly line is important to keep your business operating successfully and economically. Justifying the purchase to other departments or executives is just as important.
By using the information provided here, you can make a good decision and back it up with the facts. If you're ready to explore your robotic welding options, it’s time to get in touch with the experts.
Our free welding cost analysis is a great place to start, helping you understand what you could expect to invest and what the return will be compared to your current method.