PCE Automation have recently delivered the ultimate solution for pocket blade assembly, enhancing output, quality and ROI for global customer Stanley Tools, who have remained at the cutting edge of quality, reliability and innovation for more than 175 years.

In order to maintain their competitive edge, owners Stanley Black & Decker continuously and sustainably invest in automated production techniques, to complement their global workforce; delivering exceptional quality, reliability and value to their customers.

The Project

One process Stanley identified for improvement was the blade assembly of plastic-handled knives. The process involves the assembly of four intricate components: the handle, blade, sliding mechanism and blade fixing component. This process has historically been completed by hand, however, due to the high level of precision and repeatability and global demand for its products, an automation solution was required to increase production yields and reduce time to market. This is where the expertise of PCE came in, to expertly manufacture a market-leading solution.

Together with global alliance partners Festo and Mitsubishi, as well as the PCE GROUP, an 8 station rotary assembly cell was designed, manufactured and programmed at our Suffolk facility. This solution would utilise part feeding components from Premier Bowl Feeders to introduce the intricate components to the rotary table (at the required stages). The solution would further combine Festo Controls, Pneumatics and Drives with Mitsubishi Robotics and Cognex Vision Inspection, to deliver ultimate speed, accuracy and product quality for our customer.


The nerve centre of the rotary assembly solution is the Festo CPX-AP-I which acts as a single control network and facilitates the use of a single cable for all communications and power. It also allows for the flexible positioning of valve terminals and other components around the assembly cell – all of which deliver simplified installation and cost savings to the customer. Festo DGST precision mini slides and grippers were also deployed to ensure accuracy and repeatability in presenting the intricate plastic components for assembly. These were complemented by DFM guided actuators and air preparation units from Festo’s pneumatics range.

Speaking of the decision to engage with Festo, Senior Project Manager Ellen Blackie commented “As an existing Festo Integrator, we had every confidence that their product portfolio would offer the quality and precision that the STANLEY knife assembly application demanded. The breadth of product choice, coupled with Festo’s on-time delivery record and parts availability, was critical in helping us deliver the Stanley Black & Decker project. We appreciate the proactive support that Festo offered in exploring alternative solutions. We also found their online software tools particularly helpful, especially the ability to track parts and lead-in times online.”


Mitsubishi Logo

The Blade Assembly Cell deployed Mitsubishi SCARA Robotics to complete the multitude of simultaneous pick and place (PnP) movements demanded by the application, efficiently processing intricate components that arrived from upstream Bowl and Linear Feeding equipment.

SCARA robotics were the perfect method to deliver components at pace, with pin-point accuracy; effortlessly handling assembly requirements at a sustainable tempo without missing a beat. Following assembly, downstream vision inspection technology ensured all quality criteria were satisfied before the product can enter the supply chain.

Drawing from our internal expertise of the PCE GROUP, in tandem with our rich collaborative partnerships, enabled us to deliver a customer-pleasing high-speed solution; achieving versatility, speed and quality.

Positive Outcomes

PCE have delivered a cell with a considerate footprint, which delivers on all of the challenges posed. This turnkey solution ensures the customer does not have to continuously oversee the production process and is capable of efficient changeover for multiple product sizes.

It has also achieved the desired rate of output, whilst ensuring that every combined component meets stringent quality standards and that defective products cannot reach the customer. This serves to underline the quality of Stanley products; whilst delivering the levels of quality and longevity for which they are renowned.

Our levels of service and customer aftercare were also important factors in the formation of this partnership.


The strength of the PCE GROUP means we benefit from the vast skills and experiences of our diverse team, who are richly experienced in the field of automation and in Part Feeding Solutions. We have a dedicated multi-disciplined technical team, including Applications Engineering, in order to deliver a rich R&D experience to our customers, who may be taking their first or next steps in automation.  From Suffolk and Leicestershire, we take great pride in the complete in-house service we are able to provide. No outsourcing means shorter project lead times for our customers.

From Design to Delivery (including full Project Management) we can bring your automation ambitions to life, in the same way as we have for Stanley; helping customers increase production, enhance safety and quality and realise a quicker route to market and profitability.

If you would like to speak to one of our friendly team, we are standing by to help you with your automation journey as your partner in automation….

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