Henderson Sewing Machine Co. is filling the automation gap – and breathing new vigor into the textile industry – with smart, collaborative robots that pave the way for fully autonomous custom industrial sewing systems.
It's the latest production innovation for the 48-year-old Alabama distributor of industrial sewing machines, which is widely credited with consistently challenging the 'norms' in an industry battling global commodity pricing, complex products and the increasing need for skilled labor. Henderson has added two of Rethink Robotics' Baxter robots to their facility thus far, with plans to integrate the robots into its automated sewing systems. These custom systems are used by Henderson's customers for complex industrial sewing tasks, and will soon include Baxter as a bundled part of the solution.
"We build the machines that stitch together the world," said Frank Henderson, president of Henderson Sewing, and one of several family members involved with the company. "Our customers create the fabrics that make tires last tens of thousands of miles, protect astronauts in space, and make new medical devices safe and reliable. It's complex work, requiring human intelligence. Rethink's robots are letting us put our customers' people where they add the most value."
Henderson's systems routinely handle stitching, tabs, labels and webbing. But because humans are required to physically transfer essential materials at various manufacturing steps, the process couldn't be fully automated before -- something Henderson's customers would value. Now, Baxter will take on the task of loading and unloading materials for these systems, enabling an integrated automation system and freeing those employees to perform more value-added work in other areas of the plant.
"Henderson is a great example of innovation and American ingenuity," said Jim Lawton, Chief Product and Marketing Officer of Rethink Robotics. "Baxter brings the ability to automate tasks that couldn't be automated until now, allowing Henderson's customers to realize the benefits of a fully automated sewing solution – resulting in more up-time, faster turn-around, and higher margins."