Technology | When the robot arrives at the factory

The new fully robotized welding line that the ADF Group has just installed in Terrebonne was inaugurated with much fanfare on Tuesday morning, while some 200 company employees have stopped their activities to gather around this industrial colossus to study all its operation. and all its manufacturing prowess.

Posted at 6:30 am

Imagine a structure 275 feet long, 50 feet wide and 19 feet tall, equipped with a handling robot at the end, two huge articulating welding heads on each side, which are coupled on the ground to capable winch systems. of turning steel parts. with a weight of 6000 kg.

These tipping systems replace bridge cranes that traditionally carry heavy parts with chains hanging from the ceiling.

This is what the robotic welding line that the Austrian company Zeman has just manufactured for the ADF Group looks like, a state-of-the-art piece of equipment made to measure and the largest ever designed by the Austrian group, the largest robotic welding line in the world.

The ADF Group is specialized 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 for the One World Trade Center tower in New York, as well as the steel structure for the Videotron Center in Quebec.

“It’s not just labor shortages that prompted us to invest in installing 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 of 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 CEO of Groupe ADF, and is himself the son of founder Giacomo Paschini, who launched Au Dragon Forgé (ADF) in 1956, in Laval. Nine members of the second and third generation of the Paschini family work at the factory, which employs around 400 people.

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

We plan 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 subsidy from the Economic Development Fund.

In addition to the robotic welding line, ADF has purchased four mobile COHO robots for high-volume welding that can move around the 600,000-square-foot factory instead of moving multi-ton steel parts.

Jules Beauséjour, director of robotization for the ADF Group, explains that these robots will also perform repetitive tasks, freeing up specialized factory workers to perform more complex operations.

It was two years of planning work that mobilized all the teams in the plant, including our office people. We don’t stop training. Every year, we train fifteen people in-house with two experienced employees doing just that.

James Paschini, General Production Manager, ADF Group

The new robotic line has completed its break-in phase and has started production, but will be optimally operational within three to four months, ADF leaders estimate.

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

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

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation, who participated on Tuesday morning in the inauguration of the new robotic welding line, in his Terrebonne riding stable, 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 accelerated the pace, but we must continue on this path to reduce our productivity gaps”, he remarked once again.

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