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Tapping The Potential Of Automation In Sheet Metal Processing

For Dolanit in China, automating its production chain helped it gain new major customers and projects. Contributed by Trumpf

Qi Wang from Dolanit not only recognised the trend toward automation, but is already reaping the benefits from it. The company is located in Shijiazhuang, in China’s Hebei Province, about 300 km from Beijing. Here, Mr Wang is carrying on his father’s legacy: his father Jianyun Wang founded the company in 1986.

At that time, the company had approximately 30 employees and they used simple tools such as guillotine shears and hand welders to manufacture primarily sheet metal cladding for switch cabinets. Mr Wang now has a staff of 150. The company was the first in the entire province to introduce a linked automation solution with a large-scale storage system and three connected machines. That the company would grow, however, had already become apparent long before this.

Realising The Potential Of Automation

In 2004, the young businessman joined the company his father had spent several years building and expanding. A new business area emerged just a short time later, in 2005, when the Chinese government began subsidising railway development in order to speed up technological advancement and modernisation. Mr Wang recognised the potential of this market early on and was open to it.

“Our focus was on the stainless steel covers for the air conditioning in the trains,” said Mr Wang. To manufacture these components, Dolanit’s machinery would have to be modified—not only did it take too long to transport material between the punching and laser machines, but the quality could not always be guaranteed.

After conducting in-depth research, he found the solution: a punch laser machine from German machine tool manufacturer Trumpf. Even in Shijiazhuang, an 18 hour flight Ditzingen, Germany, Mr Wang had heard about the machine tool manufacturer.

As a result of rising payroll costs, Mr Wang was also looking for ways to continue running and expanding his company profitably. In the course of a business trip in 2013, he was able to take a closer look at automation, which was prevalent in Germany, and the resulting advantages: companies that had fewer employees than his, but that achieved higher productivity. That was the solution to his problems.

In 2014, he took a great leap. He fitted not only his TruMatic 7000, but also a 2D laser machine, the TruLaser 5030 fibre, with loading and unloading units. He connected both of these machines and the next link in his sheet metal process chain, the TruBend Cell 5000 automated bending cell, to a Stopa compact store.

Automation In Sheet Metal Processing

With this significant transformation, Mr Wang boosted his company’s productivity by 30 percent while halving his payroll costs. “At that time, automation was considered a luxury in sheet metal processing, so this quickly and significantly boosted our reputation,” explained Mr Wang.

To ensure not only that his machinery was up-to-date, but also that those who operate it, as well as the rest of the staff, were regularly updated on the latest technology, Mr Wang introduced special internal training courses for all employees. He modeled this change on the experts at Trumpf, who had offered similar courses right after the machines and storage were installed, making it possible to bring the automated factory unit online much more quickly.

Competitive pressure is intense, which is why the consistent and high quality of his products is decisive for Mr Wang. Since automating his company’s production, he was able to acquire many follow-up orders and also gain new customers. Mr Wang hopes to tap new markets—like he first did with the trains. Openness by tradition, you might say.

 

 

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