Automotive suppliers worldwide have recognized a remarkable set of challenges in the past half decade, including changes in material types, a lack of skilled labor and initiatives by OEMs to decrease the weight of vehicles. As the manufacturing economy continues to recover from the recession of 2009, each of these suppliers must find ways to maintain productivity and profitability —and very frequently they must do this with fewer employees than they relied on before the recent recession.

A large part of maintaining productivity is to achieve and hold high levels of uptime in the robotic welding operations, in order to maximize overall throughput. It is equally important to find ways to minimize errors and obtain predictive weld data to help anticipate problems in the operation. Often, it is conventional issues like spatter, burn-through and poor part fit-up that hinder these efforts. Other obstacles are the need to manage large amounts of inventory and contending with downtime to service welding equipment.

These reasons highlight why it’s so important for automotive supplier to find equipment that minimizes the total cost of ownership.

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to these challenges. However, there are some considerations that may help to reduce automotive suppliers’ pains and assist in other, interrelated parts of the process.

Best practice meetings: When possible, automotive industry suppliers should work with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and vendors or welding distributors who can engage regularly in best practice meetings. These meetings may occur by conference call, webinar or in person, and can help to determine which practices in the welding operation are working most effectively, and which areas need improvement. “Open issues” can be prioritized in order to determine time-phased solutions.

These meetings can be especially helpful to companies with multiple (even global) locations, because they help to identify opportunities for changes that could positively affect other operations. They also are an excellent platform for brainstorming error-proofing ideas and serve to open communication among the parties involved in the success of a company’s welding operation.