Training for the future
Although Waupaca foundry already has 32 robots, the first robot will soon be installed at Plant 3.
The robot will pick up a core, dip it and set it on a belt, according to Berry Degler, an electrical foreman at the foundry.
Degler recently underwent an intensive, two-day. 18-hour training program at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, along with 14 other foundry employees.
He will be part of the team that installs the robot during the plant’s shutdown for the week following July 4.
He will also be in charge of troubleshooting the equipment once it becomes operational.
“It’s different from anything that I’ve ever done before,” Degler said. “It’s all brand new to me.”
Degler said he learned to program the codes that command the robot’s operation. He also learned how to repair the robot.
“We learned how the robot works, how to operate it, program it and make it move, and we were able to manipulate it,” he said.
Degler said foundry engineers worked a long time to devise a robotic method to do the specific core-related tasks needed at Plant 3.
“We have an awesome team who specialize in robotics,” Degler said.
At this time, the new robot in Plant 3 is seen as a prototype.
“This is the first time that we are trying a robot in the warm box core process,” according to Gordy Barth, the foundry’s manager of employee development and training.
Barth said the goals of installing robots in the plant are not only to make production more efficient, but also to make a cleaner, safer environment for workers.
“Some of those cores are very heavy. The robot can save wear and tear on their shoulders,” Barth said.
Noting that the robotics training represented a significant investment by the foundry, Barth said, “Our employees are our most important asset. A stronger workforce makes a stronger company.”