ABB’s collaborative robots boost productivity by 68 percent on Electrolux’s refrigerator production line

Summary 

Application 
Collaborative robots carry out fully automated gas leak detection and electrical testing as part of the quality control procedures for refrigerators manufactured by Electrolux Group in Brazil.
     
The challenge 
Electrolux wanted to improve productivity and quality control by automating the previous manual testing regime for gas leaks on its refrigerator production line. The manufacturer also wanted a more reliable electrical testing solution because its previous system was causing unscheduled downtime and production hold-ups.    

The solution 
YuMi® and GoFa™ collaborative robots (cobots) from ABB now carry out gas leak and electrical testing procedures quickly and reliably, boosting the overall productivity of testing operations by more than 68 percent. These installations align with Electrolux's wider automation strategy in Brazil, which has increased its overall level of process automation by 28.5 percent in the past five years. 

The Electrolux Group is represented in more than 120 countries and sells more than 60 million products per year. The global leader in the sale of household appliances began operations in Brazil in 1926 and currently has four manufacturing plants across the country, two of which have been operating in Curitiba since 1996. 

As part of a major investment and modernization program across all its sites in Brazil, Electrolux Group approached ABB in 2018 to find a way to automate the gas leak detection process on its refrigerator production line in Curitiba. The manufacturer wanted to eliminate repetitive manual operations to increase productivity and optimize the quality of its end products, as well as improving health and safety. Working together, ABB and Electrolux developed a solution to automate 100 percent of the operations involved in detecting gas leaks.  

The installation of a YuMi cobot made it possible to replace manual verification, improving both the gas detection accuracy and the safety of employees. Freed from the strain of carrying out repetitive detection procedures, operators were redeployed to safer roles where they could add more value.  

Collaborative robots can work safely alongside human operators without the need for traditional barriers, so they are especially useful in applications that need a lot of flexibility or where space is tight. 

“The YuMi model proved to be the best solution for the application we were looking to automate in this line of refrigerators. It brought more security to our employees and increased the quality of tests. After that, we installed five more robots on the refrigerator production line, which significantly improved our productivity,” said Emerson Dlugosz, Manufacturing Engineering Manager at the Curitiba plant. 

The success of the gas leak detection project prompted Electrolux and ABB to look for other opportunities, and soon the attention turned to an existing electrical test station that was not delivering the expected benefits. 

The previous testing solution included a robot from a competing brand that kept interrupting production with unexpected stoppages. The ABB team proposed replacing the underperforming robot with a GoFa cobot, which belongs to an expanding family of collaborative robots developed by ABB to offer greater reach and higher payload capacity. Unlike the previous solution, the GoFa has since performed with 100 percent reliability. 

“With the acquisition of the GoFa we had an eight percent gain in the effectiveness of tests and a reduction in unexpected stops in the multi-door refrigerator production line,” said Electrolux maintenance technician Ariel Alves, who was responsible for deploying the GoFa cobot and getting it up and running. 

Introducing the GoFa is easy thanks to ABB’s Wizard Easy Programming tool, which is a graphical programming tool that enables even those with little previous experience of robots to program collaborative and industrial robots quickly, easily, and efficiently. This allowed the team at Electrolux to program the GoFa and get it up and running with only minimum telephone support from ABB. “ABB’s programming tools make it easy to use robotics in a simplified way in automated lines,” confirmed Alves.   

The benefits delivered by the collaborative robots at Electrolux’s Brazil plants has led to an interest in seeing how their performance can be replicated at the company’s other production plants around the world.  

“Thanks to our partnership with ABB, our production line now includes reliable, safe and easy-to-program robotic testing,” said Alves. “We can use internal operators to develop applications and our goal is to disseminate this knowledge so that the same methodology applied in these projects can be used to roll out robotic cells to meet different needs in our factories worldwide.” 

Collaborative robotics 

ABB's versatile collaborative robots are easy to configure, program, operate and scale, making them suitable for a wide range of applications. They are built by industry-leading specialists and supported by the industry’s most extensive global service network.   

Collaborative robots offer flexibility when assembly processes need to manufacture small batches of highly individualized products in short cycles. Their ability to work safely alongside human operators enables users to combine people's unique ability to adapt to change with a robot's tireless endurance for precise, repetitive tasks. This makes it possible to automate the assembly of many types of products on the same line. 

About YuMi® Dual-Arm 
Launched in 2015, YuMi was the world's first truly collaborative robot. With innovative functionality designed to unlock the vast global potential for additional automation in industry, YuMi is designed for a new era of automation. Safety is built into the functionality of the robot itself, removing barriers to collaboration and making guardrails a thing of the past. 

About GoFa™ 
GoFa can continuously share its workspace with people, providing maximum flexibility and efficiency. Robot and people can cooperate on the same tasks without compromising productivity or safety.  With versions designed to handle payloads of up to 5kg, 10kg and 12kg, the GoFa family has integrated torque sensors into each of its six joints, offering superior power and force limiting performance. Together, they prevent the risk of injury by immediately stopping GoFa if it detects any contact with a human worker. 

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