Prior to 1980 the welding shop consisted of well-trained and closely supervised people hand welding both light (16 gauge to 7") and thick (up to 3") metals. Spot and arc welding were used on the light metals with arc welding exclusively applied to heavier plate metal. Typical welding problems were "warping" (the heat induced from the welding causing the light metals to bend) and "seam tracking" (keeping the weld straight) in the heavy welding. In the manual welding operation when the welder received a job. he or she would put the parts to be welded on a welding table or the floor, move them around to achieve the desired angle, and then hold them down with hand clamps or by foot while performing the necessary welding.
In 1982 when the initial robot welder was installed in the shop, management chose not to use an experi enced welder to operate the robot. In fact, a person was selected and trained to operate it who had had no previous welding experience. The reason was quite simply that management knew that experienced welders would find it difficult, if not impossible, to ignore their own training and years of experience and operate the machine accordingly. Training of a new person to the necessary proficiency to operate the robot required about six months, although the robot could be operated adequately with one month's training. On the other hand, training of a manual welder to perform simple seam welding required about five to six weeks. Training a welder to interpret engineering drawings and competently assemble a variety of pieces required about one year. The existing work force of manual welders were promised during negotiations that only new work would be given to the robots.
The company found that the installation of the robot had a number of effects both on the operation of the welding shop as well as in operations upstream and downstream from it. In the welding of tanks, ladders, and cabinets these effects could be readily seen.
Customers of the company used or sold tanks to hold such products as liquids. Previously these tanks were welded by hand on both the inside and the outside of the tanks and, when completed, these welds usually had to be sanded smooth. There were some problems with weld quality on these tanks so this operation was chosen as the first application for robot welding. When the robot first started welding these tanks, it was programmed to weld both the inside and outside just as the manual welder had done. Very quickly, however, management found that the robot
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