Improving process and reducing risk through automation

One of the ways to complete tasks that require hard, physical work on a manufacturing line is with human labor. However, this approach can result in injury to the workers, lost productivity on the line, and increased costs for the business. Taking a step back to assess the line and determine which areas can be better served with robots and which with human labor can make an immense positive difference to your operation. In the case study below, Wes-Tech saved the company money, reduced risk, and improved the overall process for a positive bottom-line impact.


A commercial water heater manufacturer partnered with Wes-Tech to find a better way to load and unload large metal tanks from a conveyor. The tanks were offloaded from the welding line, and needed to be loaded onto hangars that were in constant motion on the wash line. They were using manual labor to complete all of these loads and offloads, which had resulted in injury to some of their employees, both from repeated lifting of the tanks that ranged from 90 to 120 lbs, and from heatstroke in the hot weather. Besides the risk of injury, having a person manually load these large tanks onto and off of hangars was not an efficient way to process the material.


After assessing the operation, Wes-Tech was able to meet each of the client’s needs. We began with a heavy lifting robot, removing the risk of human injury from loading and unloading the tanks. The system was equipped with sensors to understand the diameter and length of each tank so that it could adjust pick position, and could lift tanks in any sequence without requiring changeover. In addition, the robot was equipped with a motion tracker so it could follow the conveyor and load tanks correctly onto the hangers.


One of the main benefits of automation is that an operation can determine the best places for human intervention and utilize human capital only in those places. The success of this project allowed our client to gain massive ROI by reducing risk and improving operations. Some of the results of this engagement included:

  • Operational risks were reduced and downtime decreased by having robots do the heavy lifting.
  • The equipment paid for itself in a single month by reducing injuries and workers’ comp claims.
  • Employee satisfaction increased because they no longer felt subjected to potential health hazards.
  • The equipment was so reliable that the client reported it was some of the best-running equipment in the building, and years later it is still running smoothly.

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