The Polish Instytut Mechaniki, part of the IM group, has been active in the steel production sector since 1927. It works in the field of technical planning and production of steel components and systems for traffic engineering (for trains, trams, buses and construction machinery) as well as industrial applications for international customers. The company has a highly qualified and committed team of more than 1,350 employees. Their focus is on the implementation of projects – from the design to the production of the final product. They put great emphasis on an optimal material flow and production quality. To further improve these, Instytut Mechaniki decided to collaborate with the automation expert Remmert.
At the beginning of the cooperation, Instytut Mechaniki had to decide whether to automate their own sheet metal processing. The material handling expert Remmert then designed and implemented a solution that met the requirements. It automatically and efficiently loads laser cutting machines with metal sheets and then removes them for further transport. It also automates the storage of the sheets and makes optimum use of the production and storage space in all work steps. An automated MIDI sheet metal storage system with a BASIC Tower as well as the automation solution for laser-cutting systems LaserFLEX are used on site.
Comprehensive analysis at the beginning of the project
“Companies thinking about automating their sheet metal processing should first analyse the individual processes to identify potential for increasing efficiency. A thorough analysis of the current status and possible changes in the production area is extremely important for this”, reports Paweł Zieliński, General Manager Eastern Europe at Remmert GmbH.
He adds: “Only the overall analysis of all the steps of sheet metal processing leads to an individually suitable solution that avoids bottlenecks and increases the overall efficiency of production.” Thus, it is important to examine the entire material flow – from incoming goods in the warehouse, through storage, cutting, plastic forming and welding, to internal logistics. Only if all these steps are taken into account in advance, an efficient material flow between the individual processes can be guaranteed. Zieliński continues: “It is important that the solution supports the process cycles in the best possible way – both at the time of the investment as well as changed requirements in the future.”
Storage at a glance
The warehouse that Remmert built for Instytut Mechaniki has 561 storage spaces. This means that 561 pallets of 3015 format sheets (3,000 mm x 1,500 mm), each weighing three tonnes, can be stored there. The system is ten metres high and takes up relatively little space with an area of 181 square metres. It is 24.5 metres long and only 7.4 metres wide. In total, the warehouse enables the storage of more than 1,500 tonnes of the material required for the respective production processes, which theoretically can consist of more than 500 different types.
Storage space reduced by 80 percent
In the case of Instytut Mechaniki, storing such a large quantity of sheet metal, combined with the great diversity, usually requires an area of almost 900 square metres. However, Remmert was able to reduce the required storage space by 80 percent and at the same time simplify the logistics processes. A mobile charging station is responsible for supplying the sheet metal storage system. Just like the transport of the sheet metal to the laser cutting machines, loading and unloading is fully automatic thanks to the LaserFLEX. This automation solution for laser-cutting systems consists of a separate and parallel operating loading and unloading unit. Due to its speed, it is able to operate several lasers at the same time. At Instytut Mechaniki, a LaserFLEX is connected with two laser cutting machines. This saves the company both financial resources as well as space.
The production orders at Instytut Mechaniki often consist of small series. Because they frequently vary, different sheets are needed alternately. This aspect also played an important role in the project-planning phase of the new system. After completion, the process from the storage of the materials to the final step of the cut elements is as follows: The cutting jobs are transferred directly to the laser from the production preparation software. After an employee confirms a specific number of laser operations, the laser automatically orders the material to be cut from the warehouse. The storage system then delivers sheets to the LaserFLEX. The LaserFLEX then picks up a sheet and transports it to the laser table. After cutting the sheet to size, the LaserFLEX takes control of the sheet again, passes it on to the sheet sorting area and feeds the next sheet to the laser. All these processes take place simultaneously and fully automatic with two lasers.
Remmert scores points with its individual approach
Smooth installation in an existing production plant always requires Remmert to work closely with the client and to take a very individual approach to his expectations.
On the one hand, Instytut Mechaniki’s demanded that the installation should take up as little space as possible and be able to be integrated into the existing production line. On the other land, the aim was to ensure optimal material flow and thus increase efficiency. The complex requirements of the project resulted in a system that stores the production material in a space-saving manner, efficiently supplies the machines with different types of material and then picks up and transports the cut sheets to the sorting area.
Not a scratch
Damage can occur during the loading and unloading process, particularly when dealing with high-quality and sensitive materials. However, the automation solution from Remmert is equipped in such a way that it ensures gentle surface transport, minimising the risk of scratches or other damage.
Modularity, integration, independence
To ensure an optimal supply of sheet metal to their in-house processing machines and to make efficient use of the available shop floor space, more and more companies are opting for an automatic storage system such as the MIDI. This installation is characterized by the easy integration of processing machines and a very high storage capacity. The MIDI sheet metal storage system optionally consists of one or two rows in which sheets are stored on pallets. A highly efficient storage and retrieval machine moves vertically and horizontally directly along the row or between two rows. This guarantees optimal transport of the individual pallets – both from the loading station and to the unloading station. The storage system can be equipped with almost any number of stations to ensure efficient material flow processes. In addition, individual processing machines can be directly integrated into the storage system – both mechanically and into the software.
The lasers at Instytut Mechaniki use a different software than the installation from Remmert. Various interfaces were therefore required to ensure smooth operation of the system. The Remmert systems are also modular, which means that future expansion is possible. Remmert machine modules can be used completely independently of the manufacturer of the existing machines, in accordance with the customer’s wishes or production requirements. If Instytut Mechaniki decides to expand its machine fleet with an additional laser in the future, it can be integrated into the existing production without major effort. Remmert's material flow concepts thus offer a high degree of flexibility and future security.
Automated sheet metal processing pays off for companies of all sizes
Zieliński from Remmert sums up: “The decision in favour of automated sheet metal processing must be carefully weighed up for each company on the basis of the individual prerequisites and requirements. However, the degree of profitability has absolutely nothing to do with the size of the company. Many of Remmert’s customers are small, medium and large companies, who have greatly improved their production thanks to automation. Shortly after the implementation, the first signs of success can already be seen through more efficient production processes. Especially companies that process very different materials and have small production series, benefit from automated sheet metal processing.”
Thanks to decades of experience with fully automated material flow concepts for the metalworking industry, Remmert today has a broad product portfolio that can be used in companies in various fields of activity or product areas. Customers benefit from intelligent concepts that offer optimum material flow and technical advice at the highest level.
The majority of Remmert’s customers want to optimise their material flow and thus better plan and control the related processes, which in turn leads to an increase in production efficiency. This aspect goes hand in hand with the desire to save space. While there are advantages to saving space, it is usually the efficient improvement of the material flow and optimized production processes that result in the most profound and quickly noticeable changes in operational procedures: Companies such as Instytut Mechaniki are able to process more orders, better utilise their laser-cutting systems and achieve a faster return on investment.