Flourishing within the technology, industrial and design hub of Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands, manufacturing company DEONET was set up 25 years ago and now exports to more than 60 countries around the world with sales offices in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Turkey.
With a motto of “Design. Produce. Deliver,” DEONET manufactures promotional products such as personalized USB sticks, key rings and pens. These products are then sold to the promotional gift industry, marketing and advertising agencies and IT resellers, heading out across the globe from the company’s head office and production facilities in Eindhoven.
Smarter automation has allowed DEONET to remain competitive against low-cost overseas competitors while offering its customers shorter delivery times and constant product innovation. This includes the use of collaborative automation with ABB’s YuMi robot, which helps DEONET to efficiently automate meticulous processes while accommodating a wide variety of product variations, which are often produced in small lots.
For example, YuMi is capable of automating the laser-guided process of precisely placing glue dots on a wide variety of USB memory stick and credit card shapes. When done incorrectly, the glue can form strings which might ruin the product or jeopardize DEONET’s high quality standards.
The shift to producing smaller lots of greater variety – with added-in speed, quality and flexibility – means manufacturing is now less predictable for DEONET, and automation more complex. For this reason, the company focuses on doing everything in a smart way. “We have automated our whole product lines and our printing presses, and we now have automation in the shape of a YuMi robot doing the assembly of the goods,” says Rob van Berkom, CEO of DEONET.
The increasing importance of flexibility and competitiveness led DEONET to explore the possibilities of collaborative automation using ABB’s dual-arm YuMi robot solution. YuMi, which stands for “You and me, working together,” was specifically designed to work safely with people on shared tasks, without the need of cages or barriers.
YuMi is a complete assembly solution that includes part feeding systems and a wide variety of gripper and integrated 2D or 3D vision options. Its two arms allow it to multitask like a person; at DEONET, for example, it places the memory cards into position with one hand and then into the gluing unit with the other.
"It was important for us as a small company that we could program the robot ourselves without relying on outside integration experts."
“YuMi is our first robot,” says Mike Verjans, CTO. “It was important for us as a small company that we could program the robot ourselves without relying on outside integration experts. This also has to be done quickly as our production is constantly changing – YuMi’s reusable programming is important to our productivity.” For example, tasks that stay the same, such as picking up a tray or placing a chip, just need to be appended to accommodate new sizes or shapes of USB sticks. And while YuMi can quickly pick out credit cards that have been placed into trays, for products that are more unique the staff and robot could use integrated vision to find randomly placed cards on a table.
“Having the YuMi on our plant floor took some getting used to for our workers, but once they saw that the robot was safe and helped boost our productivity, they really welcomed the new member of our team,” added Joanie Slegers, assembly department manager.“It is also clear that the robot is not there to replace jobs – in fact, the more we need robots, the more we need people to plan and manage the robots and carry out quality checks.”
"The more we need robots, the more we need people to plan and manage the robots and carry out quality checks."
Rob van Berkom adds “Collaborative is the key word for DEONET in the near future. Now our production is not only more economical, but we can produce a lot more items that we couldn’t produce before, because they were too expensive to make in Europe. We already make 3,000 parts a day with one installation on one shift, so imagine what we can do in two or three shifts. I think this is going to create growth in ways that will require more people and more robots.”
The benefits of using YuMi for production of promotional products, side by side with people:
- Remain competitive against low-cost competitors while offering shorter delivery times and constant product innovation.
- Enabling producing smaller lots of greater variety – with added-in speed, quality and flexibility.
- Being independent of external programming experts thanks to the ease of use.
DEONET is a Dutch manufacturer of promotional products such as personalized USB sticks, key rings and pens sold to the promotional gift industry, marketing and advertising agencies and IT resellers. From its head office and production facilities in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, DEONET exports to more than 60 countries around the world and has sales offices in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Turkey.