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Fully Automated Material Flow

Fully Automated Material Flow

Fully Automated Material Flow

A look at how a steel company was able to press ahead with automation and enable unmanned operation in its facility. Article by KASTO Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG.

Steel is one of the most frequently used materials in industry. Examples are power generation, automotive manufacturing, food production and construction. It is also applied in many different ways and different forms because, as we know, steel is not just steel. Today more than 2,500 standard grades of steel are in use throughout the world, from simple construction steel to special high-quality alloys. These, in turn, are available in a wide range of dimensions and geometries. All of these factors make the steel trade very challenging. Companies that want to succeed in the increasingly competitive international environment must be able to supply their customers at all times with the materials they need, cut to their requirements.

This situation is all too familiar to Weser Stahl. The company has specialised for many years in the sale of hot-rolled and forged steel bars, steel tubes and bright steel. It is part of Westfälische Stahlgesellschaft, an owner-managed group of companies with four locations in Germany. Steel distribution, production of bright steel and material testing are combined here under one roof. Weser Stahl delivers mainly to customers in northern Germany and Scandinavia. The group as a whole sells some 250,000 tonnes of material each year, and Weser Stahl accounts for about 30,000 tonnes.

Increasing Numbers of Orders and Declining Batch Sizes

A large percentage of the company’s products are partially finished. More than half of the items shipped from the storage and production facilities in Stuhr have already been cut to size. The figure is rising, as Dr. Markus Krummenerl, Managing Director of Weser Stahl, points out, “Our customers are outsourcing more and more machining steps in order to save capacity. For this reason we’ve been continually expanding our portfolio in this area in order to fulfil as many of their wishes as possible.”

But this has also led to increasing customisation. “Our order numbers have been rising, while batch sizes have been shrinking. This of course poses a big challenge to us in manufacturing and logistics,” he says.

Weser Stahl relies on state-of-the-art machinery and equipment to meet this challenge. It has a number of band saws and circular saws for cutting various materials to size. These have been supplied for many years by KASTO, a group of companies based in the southern German town of Achern and known for its high-quality, high-performance machines.

“We appreciate KASTO’s ability to provide solutions even when we have special requirements,” says Krummenerl. This is why Weser Stahl also turned to the saw and storage equipment manufacturer when it decided to launch another ambitious project.

Unattended Operation Reduces the Burden on Employees

The goal was to automate the provisioning of the saws so that they could run largely unattended, enabling Weser Stahl to handle the increasing numbers of orders and meet the growing customer demand for partially finished products.

“Another important aspect for us was work safety,” adds Krummenerl. “We wanted to make our employees’ work environment more ergonomic and their daily tasks easier, in this way preventing accidents and injuries.”

Previously, material had been conveyed to the saws by an indoor crane—a laborious and not entirely hazard-free process involving bars and tubes weighing a tonne or more. “We therefore went to KASTO and asked them to suggest some solutions,” he says.

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KASTO Enable Meticulous Sawing Of Additively-manufactured Components

 

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