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ICS Gain Promotion to Gold System Partner Status, as Automation Journey with KUKA Gathers Momentum

KUKA’s system partners are committed to the needs of our customers, crafting automated solutions that present opportunities for manufacturing optimisation

28 May 2021

Regardless of what stage in their automation journeys customers might be, KUKA’s official system partners are on board to help, providing specialist skills and knowledge in their sector. Automated solutions are designed and deployed to meet customers exacting requirements.

One such system partner who has recently raised the bar, and in doing so achieved promotion to Gold system partner status, is Southampton based ICS Robotics & Automation Ltd. With over 30 years’ experience, ICS is an independent robot systems integrator who pride themselves on calling their customers ‘partners’ regarding themselves as an extension to clients existing engineering teams.

“We have a passion for technical excellence and an ability to provide robust and creative robotic automation solutions from our technology centre in Southampton” says Sean Gibbins, Technical Director, ICS. Adding “Our innovative and forward-thinking approach has given us a strong presence in many sectors such as Automotive, General Manufacturing, Medical and Logistics, where high levels of automation and a high degree of flexibility are essential”.

One recent installation that ICS have successfully delivered, is a three-robot press tending application, complete with conveyor and vision systems, at West Sussex based Wesbart, manufacturers of aluminium and stainless-steel storage systems and laboratory consumables.

Wesbart, a family run company founded in 1979, are experts in designing and manufacturing storage systems for laboratories, hospitals, universities and the pharmaceutical industry. The firm’s client portfolio spans the globe and recent increases in demand prompted the manufacturer to explore robotic process automation as a means to support process optimisation and product quality considerations.

The robot cell comprises three KUKA KR 10 six axis industrial robots, handling pre-cut metallic net shapes to be formed into drawer inserts for storage racks. A central robot delivers parts to two subsequent robots positioned at either side, each responsible for delivering the parts into a press. Each side is folded, the robot extracting and redelivering after each fold is applied. Once completed, each of the press robots presents the completed part to the central robot, which removes said part and places on a central conveyor. Parts are then delivered to an operator to stack, for eventual insertion into a storage rack.

Two different product iterations are managed by the cell. Two of three individual conveyors deliver product into the process. Cycle times differ slightly for each product as each press delivers a slightly different fold according to the tray size in question, at a ratio of 2:1. A vision system enables the central robot to remove/deliver product from and to the cell, ensuring a continual, uninterrupted flow, supporting optimum throughput.

Wesbart had a vision of what they wanted to achieve, but without the knowledge or expertise pertaining to robotics and automation were not able to execute successful project delivery without the support of an external integrator. Which is where ICS came on board, designing and delivering a complete turnkey solution, according to Wesbart’ specific operational requirements.

“In a quickly shifting market, we are convinced that in the coming years, automation and robotization will shape the world in which we live and work.” Sean surmised, adding “Wesbart have recognised the benefits afforded through robotic process automation, and are already seeing returns, not only from enhanced product integrity perspective, but externally they are now seen as an innovative, forward thinking manufacturer. Existing customers are wowed by the robots and prospects view the technology as progressive, and that is a key USP for Wesbart as a manufacturer.”

As time goes on, KUKA and our system partner relationships evolve; become closer. KUKA does not merely introduce a system partner, wait for the orders and then deliver a new batch of robots at the custom­er’s door for the integrator to get on with integrating; it encourages an open and sym­biotic relationship.

Mike Payne, Area Sales Manager – South West, KUKA UK had this to say, about the KUKA/ICS partnership “I have had the pleasure of working with ICS Robotics and Automation for a number of years, and am very proud to have been an integral part of their incorporation into the KUKA System Partner program, based upon a long-standing track record of quality, reliability and technical capability. ICS are well deserving of their recent promotion to Gold status. Their swift hassle-free delivery, supported by outstanding customer reviews, is testament to their ‘customer first’ approach to automation. I look forward to many more project deliveries with the ICS team.”