EMO 2019 Saw/Warehouse Combination for smart metal processing

Author / Editor: Stephanie Riegel-Stolzer / Peter Königsreuther

Smart factory Warehouse and sawing technology find themselves confronted with advancing digitisation and networking. To make sure that these initial links do not form weak spots in the value creation chain, both can now be reinforced using digital tools.

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Die Digitalisierung und Vernetzung von Produktions- und Logistikprozessen ist in der Metallverarbeitung auf dem Vormarsch.
Die Digitalisierung und Vernetzung von Produktions- und Logistikprozessen ist in der Metallverarbeitung auf dem Vormarsch.
(Bild: Kasto)

Whether in the steel trade, the automobile and component industry, or in machine and installation construction, for years now metal-processing firms have been battling with mounting demands. Customers are expecting ever-higher flexibility in production, from batch size one to large series. And the range of materials and dimensions is constantly growing. At the same time, quality requirements and cost pressures are increasing. In order to maintain a place in worldwide competition, systems capable of realising diverse production tasks variably and effectively – but also cost-effectively – are necessary.

Self-organising production

A key to opening the treasure chest containing the answer is the digitisation and networking of production and logistics processes – also known as Industry 4.0. In modern metal processing, machines, installations, goods and load carriers are interconnected via the internet of things (IoT) and can communicate with each other. Intelligent sensor systems supply current status information for this in real-time. All process-relevant data is gathered and analysed. This enables decentralised, auto­nomous and needs-oriented optimisation of the entire value-creation chain. The path from raw materials to the finished product thus becomes shorter, more flexible, more resource-conserving and more cost-efficient.

It already begins with storage: instead of the old floor or cantilever-arm storage, metal processors today rely on automated bar-storage warehouses. These software-controlled systems speak for themselves with their substantially higher storage density, faster access times and maximum inventory transparency. Sawing – often the first processing step after the warehouse – is likewise increasingly often unmanned. For sawing systems, complete with manipulators and conveying technology, can be placed immediately adjacent to the warehouse, from where they are supplied with the necessary raw material. With suitably equipped machines, the sawing process itself likewise runs auto­nomously. This leads to highly integrated systems incorporated seamlessly into start-to-finish material flows – more or less an intelligent factory.

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Unmanned from semi-finished goods to finished parts

Kasto Maschinenbau therefore offers users combined warehouse/saw/robot systems in which all warehouse, handling, sawing, marking, palleting and bundling processes, from the intake of raw materials to the picking of the parts, run entirely automatically. Smoothly running communications are equally important here: all components involved, to put it simply, must speak the same language. This is made possible by start-to-finish control systems and suitable interfaces. In this sense, Kasto offers, with Kastologic, a modular warehouse management system (WMS) specially tailored to the requirements of bar and sheet-metal warehousing. It visualises all steps between goods intake and dispatch clearly and transparently, and ensures efficient control of the material flow – including the warehouse, the conveying system attached to it, and the processing machine with the pertinent material handling.

The implemented software optimises the processes in and around the warehouse and speeds up the intralogistics, boosting reliability and effectiveness. It raises the efficiency of storage and retrieval devices, for example, by avoiding empty runs and by placing the more frequently needed articles nearer to intake and output stations than the less frequently needed ones. Other functions of Kastologic are the management of orders, batches, left-over and partially-cut parts, permanent inventorisation, and the possibility of flexible application of different in/out strategies and picking principles. The comprehensive statistical and analytical tools monitor the utilisation of both the overall system and the individual components. This enables much better exploitation of the potential of the intralogistics, for unnecessary journeys or pointless waiting times are avoided, while possible changes can be simulated in advance and tried out without risk.

Via tailor-made interfaces, the WMS allows Kastologic, but also individual machine controllers too, to be connected effortlessly to a higher-level host system in the firm – from SAP to Infor or Microsoft Dynamics or even customer-specific software tools. The resulting unified communication structure raises the transparency and efficiency considerably. Order control becomes comfortable and user-friendly. And data collected in the warehouses and sawing machines can be used and analysed in the overall context. This en­ables, for example, complete traceability of certain goods and workpieces, and balanced utilisation of the machine park with short idle times, improved quality control, and better planning of service work. Left-overs and stocks can likewise be optimised sustainably using the corresponding information – leading to a substantial reduction in production costs.

App supports manual warehouse management

Manually operated warehouses, too, can be managed with the help of Kastologic. For this, Kasto has developed the app Kastomobile, an application, suitable for all mobile end-devices with android operating systems, which allows the user to transfer to the WMS, via smartphone or tablet, all operations such as storage and removal, commissioning, dispatch and stock information. This is particularly easy with a hand-held device available from Kasto and equipped not only with an easily read display and robust housing, but also with an integrated barcode scanner. With this device, the worker simply collects the information necessary for the order position in question and transfers it to the management system via a wireless connection. Transparency and traceability are therefore just as high as in automatic software-controlled warehouses. A so-called “pick-by-crane” system can similarly be realised straightforwardly with Kastomobile: with the app, the user controls the connected overhead crane, which carries out the desired storage and retrieval operations autonomously.

Sawing in unison with the material flow

The robot connection Kastosort provides a way of automating the production processes preceding and following sawing and integrating them into a uniformly controlled material flow. Industrial robots can remove the sawn parts autonomously and take over numerous other tasks, from deburring and chamfering to centring and thread cutting, from marking and imprinting to sorting, de-stacking and picking. The integration of the robot/source solution into the production chain is further enhanced by container management or driverless transport systems. If required by the customer, Kasto integrates the robot controller into either the saw controller, the Kastologic WMS, or an existing ERP system. This means that the user can now control and monitor this work step, too, via a central interface and profit from an optimally matched process chain.

The use of mobile devices is also changing industrial production. For this, Kasto has brought onto the market, with the Kastoapp, an application for clear visualisation of its sawing machines. It provides a status overview for all Kasto machines present in the network and equipped with the control systems Smartcontrol, Advancedcontrol, Procontrol or Expertcontrol. At a glance, the user knows the machine number and type. If a saw is running in automatic operation, the Kastoapp can furthermore draw on information archived in the machine control system. The user thus has precise information on all relevant parameters, such as the article, cut lengths, planned and actual piece numbers, feed and cutting speeds. If a fault arises during operation, the app visualises the incoming fault warning and the user can react quickly. Outages can thus be reduced to a minimum.

Kasto goes even further with the assistance system Visualassistance, for this uses the concept of augmented reality to simplify remote maintenance of machines and installations. At its core is an interactive app for tablets, smart phones or smart glasses. It enables contact with service personnel via video and audio streams. User and technicians share the same view in real-time, which facilitates problem-solving by speeding up the identification of individual installation components and possible irregularities.

The experts at Kasto can also use the app to provide help visually and, for example, to superimpose markings on the live video. While the customer is carrying out on-site maintenance or repairs on the saw or warehouse, he receives all necessary information directly on his display. If he uses data glasses, he even has both hands free – which further simplifies the work. Kasto service technicians are virtually “on-site” and give staff the relevant guidance. This makes time-consuming training and expensive site visits obsolete.

We have not yet reached the end of smart development

In future, Kasto will expand its portfolio very clearly in the direction of Industry 4.0. The collection and analysis of data from running processes offers particularly great potential here – for preventive maintenance, for example. In every new or ongoing development, practical benefits for the user are the priority. Even now, they are already profiting from optimised machine utilisation, short idle times, minimised maintenance work and lower production costs.

Because the intelligent factory is constantly monitoring and optimising itself, the quality of the finished parts will likewise remain constantly high.

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* Stephanie Riegel-Stolzer is on the board of the Kasto Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG in 77855 Achern, tel. (00 49-78 41) 61-0, kasto@kasto.com, www.kasto.com