Here Come the Robots


Recently featured in the Dronfield eye – Robots Installed November 2017

As Dronfield’s largest employer, Wm Lee has provided work for generations of local folk dating way back to the mid-19th century. However, the Callywhite Lane foundry has now taken on eight workers who are like no others. They work around the clock, don’t take tea or toilet breaks, never go on holidays and they have no need to wear expensive safety boots. These workers are robots.

Created by the Swedish pioneers ABB, the eight state-of-the-art robots have been integrated into the Wm Lee process shop to help finish high quality castings made for the automotive, agricultural and rail industries. Although taking up duties formerly performed by humans, the company believes that embracing robotic technology will lead to a healthier order book and more working shifts for its other employees. New technology such as this is significant if the company wants to continue to win new work and keep down the costs to customers, says managing director
Toni Carannante –

“It is important that we are forward-looking and robots can help us secure the future of Wm Lees for the next generation.” he said. “This is a massive investment but we need to leave a legacy for future engineers who will be employed here.”

Technology has always been out there, but Wm Lees noted an important advancement when attending a trade exhibition in Germany. The development of robots suitable for foundry work had moved on with a vision system. Cameras act as eyes for the robots, enabling them to always be able to precisely locate castings and pick them up.

The work of the robots is supported by up-to-date inspection facilities, allowing the company to better confirm and monitor dimensions, surface finish and cleanliness of their products. Mr Carannante added that the robots had been installed with the co-operation of employees.

“This workforce has taken to the technology really well, he said. “We work very closely with the unions and have an extremely good relationship with them.” Added engineering director Nikolas Dobbs: “Our teams of employees have
taken to working with the robots and have embraced the technology. They have found the robots to be interesting and intriguing.”

ABB is a leading supplier of industrial robots and robot software, with more than 300,000 robots installed worldwide.

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