Producing 80 robots/week in the Netherlands

As part of the Lely journey tour AgriLand visited the Lely headquarters and one of its two production facilities – with the second one being based in the US. Although, this factory contributes to 80% of Lely’s total output compared to its factory in the US.

The headquarters – based in Maassluis, the Netherlands – is a newly constructed building; which was built in 2013 to accommodate Lely’s rapid growth in automation production.

The new building is in fact located where Lely first began back in 1948; where the Lely brothers – Cornells and Arij van der Lely – introduced their very first innovation, the finger-wheel rake.

The old production facility – which is located next to the new building – was then used to facilitate the production of Lely’s machinery line.

However, in 2017, Lely ceased the production of its Lely-branded machinery and decided to focus its attention on bringing new and improved automations to the international dairy market.

The new factory

Opened in 2014, by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the new Lely campus has been described as one of the “most sustainable business premises in Europe”.

The headquarters and production facility – for their automated milking systems – covers a total area of 10ha and both are housed under one roof.

Sustainability and innovation were at the forefront during the development and construction of the new complex.

All products are manufactured according to the very latest global sustainability standards, with the focus on reducing their energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Currently efforts have delivered an energy saving of 343t of CO2 per year, which equates to a forest the size of approximately 32 football pitches.

Some of the sustainability measures include: a heat and cold storage in the ground; a bio-oil-fired combined heat and power (CHP) unit that feeds the LED lighting; a grey-water system which uses collected rainwater from the roof; and the possibility of implementing wind turbines and fully automatic sensors for exterior and interior lighting, taps, doors and blinds.

The surface of the building is also almost completely covered in windows, to maximise the amount of natural light entering the building.

A window is also located over the production line where the arm of the robot is constructed, to provide extra lighting during this stage of the assembly.

Furthermore, the factory contains a 100m² interior garden; which Lely believes has the dual benefit of providing a pleasant working environment while regulating moisture and oxygen levels appropriately.

The construction of the robot

The factory itself is very well laid out – apparently for the “efficient and safe production of its automations”.

The construction of the robot involves 16 steps and each step in the assembly process takes the same amount of time to complete.

There are 160 people employed within the production facility with each person on the production line trained to complete any stage in the assembly of the robot with the exception of the construction of the robot arm.

There are dedicated people for the construction of the robot arm as it is the most difficult part to assemble, so specialised training is required.

A total of 1,220 elements go into the robot, but this does not include any of the electrical components. A surprising amount of these elements are manually attached to the robot, with small cranes used to attach any of the heavier items such as the arm.

If one person was to construct a robot alone it would take a total of 32 hours to complete from the start to the end of the production line.

At present, 80 robots per week are produced by the factory, which equates to 16 robots per day or 1.3 robots per hour. The US factory, which has a smaller production facility, produces a total of 40 robots per week or eight robots per day.

The Lely robot and the Vector (an automatic feeding system) are both custom made to order so that there is never a huge amount of parts stored in the factory at any one time.

The parts of the robot come from over 200 suppliers which are mainly in European countries.

Once complete the Lely robot is tested on the ‘Bestie’ testing arm which mimics a cows udder in its appearance.

Once testing is complete the robots are packaged and ready for collection to be shipped off to their new homes.

Lely products are supplied to over 40 countries worldwide. 30% of their robots produced stay within the Netherlands, just 2% go to the US and a total of 280 robots (8% of 2019 production) is expected to be shipped to Ireland this year.