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Downtime in the operations of manufacturing companies is often the result of inefficient internal logistics, i.e. the inability to provide material for production on time. Shorter series and deadlines, as well as growing material diversity and emphasis on high quality, are conducive to downtimes. However, the automation of warehouse and production processes can be a helpful tool in dealing with this problem.

Holl and Hase are service companies that perform industrial treatment of various types of sheets. They are often dealing with short-series orders. Any machine downtime caused by waiting for a material is associated with significant losses. Until recently, it seemed that delivering a specific sheet from an assortment of up to several hundred items directly to the processing machine in less than 3 minutes is not realistic. Automated storage systems are changing this approach. In terms of efficiency, they beat conventional storage methods.

Storage of one thousand tonnes on a small area

The automated solution introduced at Holl allows storing up to a thousand tonnes of sheets on 500 pallets, covering only 184 square meters.

Access to the material is extremely easy. Laser cutters themselves are able to collect material in accordance with the production program and store cut sheets (with micro-systems) back into the racks. Integrated weighing devices allow conducting continuous inventory.

In the case of Holl, it is about the integration of laser cutters with the storage system and its connection to the superior ERP system. Thanks to this integration, a fully automated laser sheet metal processing system is created.

A similar solution was used in Hase. Before starting the new storage facility, the sheets were usually stored in steel shelves supported by high lift forklifts. The material was picked up by employees and temporarily buffered in the storage tower of the laser machine.

Although such a solution provided good use of machines, the handling of materials required a lot of time, personal and spatial commitment,” explains Frank Schlicker, director of Hase.

In order to optimize logistics processes, a decision was made to invest in a larger warehouse, which, according to assumptions, would automatically supply three laser machines.

It was assumed that the system should ensure both the optimal flow of raw materials as well as semi-finished products and raw material residues. A fully-automated warehouse was created consisting of two parallel rows of racks between which the stacker crane moves. There are 542 pallet spaces available (1.6 thousand tonnes of cargo) and a loading station in front of the system. Three machining devices were installed on the right and left.

WMS controls all processes in the warehouse

The warehouse management system (WMS) is responsible for the optimal use of storage areas according to the principle of chaotic storage.

The software manages all processes in the warehouse and optimizes them from the moment of receipt to the release of goods, thus ensuring quick preparation of goods.

The warehouse management system transfers all relevant inventory data to the commodity management system (independently programmed by Hase engineers). In addition, the logistics software communicates with three laser machines. In the event of an incoming order, the laser machines request the data interface to deliver the appropriate material from the warehouse. The device transfers the necessary blanks from the sheet to the appropriate machine, and the remaining goods are weighed and returned to the warehouse.

The flow of materials faster by 50 percent

The basic warehouse space for the system is 192 square meters (the previous storage area has been reduced by over 60 percent). The material flow speed has also significantly increased.

Thanks to the new machining system, the material flow speed has increased by at least 50 percent. And with fewer staff in the warehouse,” informs Frank Schlicker.

In order to ensure a constant supply of materials to machines and to handle stacked orders, even parts that are not immediately processed will be laser cut and returned to the warehouse.

In order to be able to store processed materials on a pallet in many layers without damage, the individual layers of half-finished products are separated by means of PVC panels. Separating panels located in the sheet metal warehouse are placed on top of semi-finished products fully automatically. If necessary, goods for subsequent machining processes are delivered by two separate unloading stations.

Photo: Holl

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