Technology | When the robot arrives at the factory

The all-new fully robotized welding line that the ADF Group in Terrebonne has just set up was inaugurated with great fanfare on Tuesday morning, while some 200 company employees have ceased all their activities to gather around this industrial colossus in order to study all its workings and all its manufacturing prowess.

Posted on June 29

Imagine a structure that is 275 feet long, 50 feet wide and 19 feet high, equipped with a handling robot at the end, two huge articulated welding heads on each side, which are coupled on the ground to systems turning machines capable of turning steel parts weighing 6000 kg.

These turning systems replace overhead cranes that traditionally transport heavy parts with chains hanging from the ceiling.

This is what the robotic welding chain just manufactured by the Austrian company Zeman for the ADF Group looks like, state-of-the-art custom-made equipment and the largest ever designed by the Austrian group, the largest robotic welding chain in the world .

The ADF Group specializes in the design, manufacture and installation of steel superstructures with a high level of architectural complexity. The company made the strategic decision two years ago to automate part of its production to optimize its production capacities.

The ADF Group notably manufactured and installed the 450-foot antenna of the One World Trade Center tower in New York, as well as the steel structure of the Videotron Center in Quebec.

“It’s not just the labor shortage that prompted us to invest in setting up this robotic welding line. We are doing this to increase our production capacities, to allow us to seek other contracts and increase our order book”, summarizes James Paschini, general manager of production for the ADF Group.


Inauguration of the robotic production line at ADF Group in Terrebonne

James is the son of Jean Paschini, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Groupe ADF, and himself the son of founder Giacomo Paschini, who launched Au Dragon Forgé (ADF) in 1956, in Laval. Nine members of the second and third generations of the Paschini family work at the factory, which employs nearly 400 people.

Proof that the new robotic line will not solve all the Group’s labor problems, a large banner bearing the traditional inscription “We are hiring” still hangs on the front of the factory.

We expect to hire 100 new employees this year.

Jean Paschini, CEO of the ADF Group

“But our robotic line will allow us to produce simple parts in six times less time than a team, which allows us to free up these employees to produce more complex parts with added value”, specifies James Paschini.

Invest in the future

The ADF Group has invested 31.5 million to automate part of its production and optimize the digitization of its activities. The company obtained a loan of 12.3 million from Investissement Québec and another loan of 7.7 million with interest relief from the Economic Development Fund.

In addition to the robotic welding line, ADF has acquired four mobile COHO robots to carry out high-volume welding that can move around the 600,000 square foot factory rather than moving the steel parts from several tons.

Jules Beauséjour, director of robotization for the ADF Group, explains that these robots will also perform repetitive tasks that will free up the factory’s specialized workers so that they can perform more complex operations.

It was two years of planning work that mobilized all the teams in the plant, even our office people. We do not stop training. Each year, we train fifteen people internally with two experienced employees who do just that.

James Paschini, General Manager of Production for the ADF Group

The new robotic chain has completed its running-in phase and has started production, but it will be operational in an optimal way within three to four months, estimate ADF leaders.

The chain manufactured parts for the new terminal at Los Angeles airport and other components for a project that the ADF Group is completing in New York. The ADF Group has a well-filled order book, including contracts for two new electric vehicle battery plants that will be built in Michigan.

“We are thinking of eventually installing the same machines at our factory in Montana, where there too, we want to increase our production capacities”, assesses the CEO, Jean Paschini.

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation, who participated Tuesday morning in the inauguration of the new robotic welding line in his riding of Terrebonne, was obviously delighted with this structuring investment.

“In 2019, Quebec companies invested 44% less than Ontario companies in new equipment per worker. For two years, we have increased the pace, but we must continue on this path to reduce our productivity gaps, ”he once again hammered.

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