Improving production efficiency. The case of steel processing
There are many ways in improving production efficiency that are capable of changing the nature of metal sheet processing. The implementation of production automation systems requires the identification of the needs and challenges that exist in a production company. On this basis, a proper solution can be designed to make the whole production process more efficient. Sheet metal processing automation systems are a way to increase production efficiency – from the start of the storage process, through the flow of material to the processing machine, to the collection of cut parts and their transport to the final stations or back to the automated storage system. Such a system is the SmartFlow System from Baumalog.
The efficiency of the production process is a complex issue, consisting of the machines availability and their skilful use to exploit their full potential, as well as the human factor, which is responsible for the execution of activities that are not automated. Increasing production efficiency is possible thanks to innovative automation solutions that are able to significantly improve the quality of the material handling process. Automation systems make it possible to increase the availability and thus the efficiency of production machines such as laser cutting machines for sheet metal or bending centres. How is this possible?
Improving production efficiency and availability of the machines
Improving machine availability involves, among other things, reducing planned machine downtime by unloading and loading the machine table. Availability decreases when a operator is solely responsible for unloading and loading the machine. This type of work is more dangerous and requires a high energy input from the operator throughout the shift. An automation system responsible for unloading and loading of the machine changes the picture of this activity.
The automated loading and unloading module MultiLoader consists of two independently moving stations that minimise the downtime of the processing machine. The loading and unloading station picks up a sheet from the system’s shelf and transports it straight to the laser cutting machine table – the whole process is repetitive in a fixed time interval, enabling 24/7 operation without the constant presence of an operator.
The principle of how the MultiLoader works and how it transports raw material and cut parts is shown in the video below from one of our recent projects at Hammar company in Sweden:
Ways to increase production efficiency
There are many factors in the sheet metal processing that can cause productivity losses. These include, for example, unscheduled downtime, waiting too long for raw materials to be delivered to the processing machine area, or losses associated with inefficient machine operators.
SmartFlow System – the answer to market needs
The use of an automation such as the SmartFlow System makes it possible to fully optimise the efficiency of production processes. The loading and unloading of processing machines would not be possible without a properly designed material flow, which starts when the material enters the production hall. SmartFlow System makes it possible to combine an automated storage system (MonoTower, TwinTower, TransferTower or MultiTower) and loading stations. This enables comprehensive management of the production hall, which is significantly simplified by the Smart WMS software, which allows, among other things, inventory monitoring. Combined with the duo station, which delivers material from the storage system to the loading and unloading stations via two independently operating levels, it forms a coherent whole that significantly improves the efficiency of the production process.
Increasing production efficiency at Ter Horst company
Ter Horst company, based in the Netherlands, from many years specialises in metal processing. To improve its storage processes, in 2021 the company implemented an automated MultiTower storage system in its production hall, which we expanded in spring 2023 to include an automation module for a Durma laser cutting machine for cutting sheets with a maximum size of 3 m x 1.5 m.
The additional automation module made it possible to utilise the full production capacity of the laser cutting machine in operation and streamlined the flow of material from the storage system shelf to the processing machine table and the return of cut parts to the shelf. This eliminates the most repetitive and time-consuming operator activity of transporting the material to the right place. The entire task is taken over by the automation module and the operator is moved to more valuable work.
For more information on system expansion, read our articles: “Automation of laser cutting machine with warehouse” and in the article “; “Expansion of MultiTower warehouse with automation of sheet metal processing”.
Increasing production efficiency as a challenge in many industries
In many production halls, there is a highly complex machinery park, which requires a system to be set up to guarantee that each machine has the capacity it needs. The lack of automation can create a number of production bottlenecks that prevent the full capacity of the machinery fleet from being utilised. Working below capacity risks creating economic losses by reducing the company’s competitive advantage. The use of innovative solutions such as systems for automattion of the storage and flow of material to the processing machines makes it possible to build a competitive advantage and eliminate downtime in complex production processes.
The process of sheet metal flow to the production machines, which is optimised by the SmartFlow System, is a key element both in companies where the production of the smallest details is carried out in-house and in companies providing sheet metal cutting services. In both cases, the production of these types of parts can take place 24/7. Working with this system requires proper planning and automation of the processes, also with the aim of changing the nature of the operator’s work and thus significantly improving the efficiency of the production process.
Are you looking for a solution to improve the efficiency of your company’s machinery park? Contact us and see how our solutions can develop your production potential.
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