The integration of sawing machines with an automated material handling system has brought significant production and efficiency benefits for one Bavarian-based precision engineering firm.
Werner Weitner, which primarily manufactures components and assemblies for the automotive and medical sectors worldwide, has centralised a large part of its activities in a new factory building at its headquarters in Eichstätt.
In the process, raw material storage has been updated by the installation of two UniTower systems from Kasto, which not only save time and space but are also ergonomic and economical.
CEO Heinz Weitner comments: “Our logistics was becoming a challenge, as we had expanded organically over the years. The material that is now held in the two towers in our new production and storage unit was not long ago distributed in manually operated warehouse areas across several factory buildings on our site. Now everything is bright, clean and tidy, resulting in a more pleasant working environment.”
The difficulty previously was that logistics had become more and more difficult. The effort needed to transport parts and materials back and forth between the individual manufacturing processes around the site had become cumbersome. The problem was compounded by the large variety of materials stored at Werner Weitner, including steels, alloys, aluminium and resins.
As the company's customers expect short delivery times, the materials have to be stored in significant quantities to allow the company to respond quickly to orders, which can involve anything from one-off prototypes through to series production.
Mr Weitner continues: “We have used sawing machines from Kasto for many years and have been extremely satisfied with their performance. We were aware that the company also manufactures automated storage systems for bar stock and sheet material, so we sat down together to find a solution to our requirements.”
To optimise efficiency of material flow in the new factory, Kasto recommended installing two freestanding dual tower storage systems, with a KASTOmicut E 4.6 sawing machine placed between the two towers’ output stations. The UniTower 1.0 is suitable for storing and retrieving bar stock up to 3m in length, while the UniTower 2.0 has the capacity to handle material up to 6m long.
Containing 52 and 41 cassettes respectively, the storage systems provide ample space for Werner Weitner's raw material in a small footprint. The location of products in the individual cassettes is stored in the warehouse management system. It is connected via a customised standard interface to the manufacturer's proALPHA ERP software and operated either via a control panel directly at the storage system or via a mobile handheld unit.
Based on the material-to-operator principle, an operating gantry crane supplies cassettes automatically to the output station. Workflow is significantly more ergonomic and assignment errors have been virtually eliminated. The short access times of the UniTower enable the company to process pending orders quickly.
The KASTOmicut E 4.6 swing-frame pivoting-bow bandsaw, located between the two towers, is designed for cross and mitre cutting of bar, tube and profile and mainly fulfils one task at Werner Weitner.
Sawmill department manager Florian Winhard explains that to obtain the most economical raw material prices, materials are generally delivered to Eichstätt in 6m lengths. The saw is employed to cut material for all products that are 3m or shorter so that it can be stored in the UniTower 1.0.
There are six other Kasto saws at the Eichstätt site, most of which are from the KASTOwin bandsaw machine series, half of which have been replaced with more modern machines. Whereas before they were distributed around the site, they are now centralised in one area. For cutting particularly challenging materials, Werner Weitner also has access to a high-performance KASTOwin pro bandsaw.
On average, approximately 45 cassettes are moved by the automated handling system per day. Whereas in the past a piece of material ran through up to eight handling steps on the way to becoming a finished item, thanks to the tower storage systems and more efficient processing, this number has been halved, saving significant time and effort.
Moreover, the inventory of raw material stored has also been halved due to the ability to hold it in a central location. It has resulted in less capital tied up in raw material and extra space for value-added activities.
Daniel Miehling from the control and IT department at Werner Weitner concludes: “The biggest benefit of the collaboration with Kasto is that we obtained everything from one source. We were provided with competent support, including integration of the saws into our new production flow.
“Thanks to the comprehensive and easy-to-understand training, our employees did not have any reservations with the new technology and could operate it straight away without difficulty.
“There have been very few malfunctions since the UniTower storage systems were installed and any that have arisen have been expertly handled by Kasto. They are able to interrogate the towers – and sawing machines – from their factory and troubleshoot errors quickly and easily.”