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The smart future of metalworking
Source：International Metalworking News for Asia- April 2019
Date Published：4/11/2019 02:04:40 PM
Manual and mutually-isolated processes are increasingly giving way to a continuously-controlled, intelligent material flow, in which all the components involved communicate autonomously with each other. At KASTO, this topic has long since ceased to be simply a dream of the future, because the sawing and storage technology manufacturer already has numerous solutions in its portfolio that make metalworking more efficient, more flexible and more cost-efficient in today’s Industry 4.0 era.
In the steel trade, the automotive and supplier industry and in mechanical and plant engineering, metalworking companies across all industries have been facing increasing demands for years now. Customers increasingly want greater manufacturing flexibility, from batch sizes of one item to large-volume production, while variety of materials and sizes is steadily increasing. At the same time, quality standards are rising and there is continuous pressure to cut costs. To hold their own against international competitors, companies need versatile and efficient solutions for a wide variety of production tasks.
Production can organise itself
One solution here is the digitalisation and networking of production and logistics processes – also known as Industry 4.0. In modern metalworking, machines, plants, goods and load carriers are connected via the Internet of Things and can communicate with each other. Intelligent sensor systems provide up-to-date status information in real time. All process-relevant data is recorded and analysed, enabling users to optimise their entire value chain in a decentralised, autonomous and demand-oriented manner. The route from raw material to the finished product becomes shorter, more flexible, resource-saving and cost-efficient – and it starts with storage. Today’s metalworking companies are increasingly relying on fully automated storage systems for long goods, instead of the previously widespread floor and cantilever arm storage methods. These automated software-controlled systems have completely convinced users with their significantly higher storage density, fast access times and maximum stock transparency. Moreover, sawing technology – often the first processing station after goods have been removed from storage – is being increasingly carried out with no manpower. Sawing machines can be seamlessly connected to the raw material warehouse and supplied with the required materials using manipulators and conveyor technology. The sawing process itself also runs autonomously if the machine is equipped accordingly, resulting in highly-efficient systems that are seamlessly integrated into a continuous material flow – the intelligent factory.
100% automation – from the raw material to the finished part
The company is a supplier of Industry 4.0 solutions for metalworking. It creates combined storage-sawing-robot systems for its customers, in which all the storage, handling, sawing, marking, palletising and bundling processes are performed fully automatically, from the raw material to the commissioning of the cut parts. Problem-free communication is particularly important, since all the components involved must “speak the same language”. This is achieved by means of integrated control systems and suitable interfaces. With KASTOlogic, for example, the supplier offers a modular warehouse management system (WMS), which is specially tailored to the requirements of long goods and sheet metal storage. The WMS maps all the processes between goods receipt and dispatch clearly and transparently, ensuring efficient control of the entire material flow – and that includes the warehouse, the associated conveyor technology and the processing machines with their material handling.
The software optimises processes in and around the warehouse, making intralogistics faster, more reliable and more efficient. It makes the travel routes of storage and retrieval machines more efficient by avoiding empty runs and placing items that are needed often closer to storage and retrieval stations than the items that are not often required. KASTOlogic has even more efficient and user-friendly functions, like the management of orders, batches, remaining parts & first cuts. There is also a permanent inventory that allows you to flexibly apply different in-out strategies and picking principles. Comprehensive statistics and analysis tools monitor the utilisation of the entire system and individual components. This allows the potential of intralogistics to be fully exploited, avoiding superfluous routes and unnecessary waiting times. Possible changes can also be simulated in advance and tried out without risk.
The right interface for every system
Thanks to customised interfaces ranging from SAP, Infor and Microsoft Dynamics products to customer-specific software solutions, the WMS KASTOlogic can be easily connected to a higher-level host system within the company, as can individual machine control systems. The resulting uniform communication structure significantly increases transparency and efficiency. Users can easily control all the orders, and the data collected and recorded in the warehouses and sawing machines can be comprehensively analysed and utilised. This enables the continuous tracking of specific goods and workpieces and the uniform utilisation of the machine park with short non-productive times, improved quality control & the enhanced planning of maintenance measures. Even remnant lengths and warehouse stocks can be sustainably optimised with relevant information, significantly reducing production costs.
Manually-operated warehouses can also be managed with KASTOlogic, and the company developed the KASTOmobile app to do just that. The app is suitable for all Android mobile devices and it enables users to transmit all the information on storage & relocation, picking and shipping and inventory information to the WMS via smartphone or tablet. The handheld device was specifically designed to handle these tasks, equipped with an easy to read display, robust housing and integrated barcode scanner round off the features of this extremely useful device. It knows that transparency and traceability are just as important for managing manually-operated systems as they are in automated, software-controlled warehouses – so the employee simply uses their device to collect the required order item information, which is then wirelessly transmitted to the management system. The “Pick-by-Crane” system can also be effortlessly implemented with KASTOmobile – users can use the app to control a networked indoor crane, which then carries out the desired storage and retrieval procedures with the aid of the relevant coordinates.
Robot-assisted sawing for greater efficiency
The metalworking supplier also has a solution in its portfolio that automates production processes upstream and downstream of the sawing process and integrates these into a uniformly-controlled material flow – the KASTOsort robot link. Industrial robots can not only remove the saw cuts independently, they can also perform many other tasks such as deburring, chamfering, centring, threading, marking, printing, sorting, stacking and picking. This robotic solution can be further integrated with a container management or driverless transport system. Depending on the customer’s requirements, they can integrate the robot controls into the saw controls, its own KASTOlogic WMS or an existing ERP system, enabling users to also control and monitor this work step with a single interface and benefit from a perfectly harmonised process chain.
Your machines always in view
The use of mobile devices is also gaining ground in industrial production and it has marketed an application for the clear visualisation of its sawing machines – the KASTOapp. This app displays the status of all the networked machines equipped with the SmartControl, AdvancedControl, ProControl or ExpertControl systems. Users can see the name, machine number and type of each saw at a glance. If a saw is running in automated mode, the KASTOapp can also access the information stored in its machine control programme. This gives users exact information on all the relevant parameters, like the article, cut length, target and actual quantity, feed rate and cutting speed. If a malfunction occurs, the app displays a graphic visualisation of the relevant error message, enabling users to react quickly and reduce downtimes to a minimum.
VisualAssistance – remote maintenance with augmented reality
The company goes one step further with its VisualAssistance system, which uses the concept of augmented reality to simplify the remote maintenance of machines and systems. An interactive app for tablets, smartphones and smart glasses lies at the heart of the system – and customers can use it to connect to specialists via video and audio streams. Users and technicians see the same view in real time, greatly facilitating mutual understanding and helping to quickly identify individual plant components and any faults that may occur.
The app also gives experts the opportunity to provide visual assistance and to display markers in live video, for instance. Thanks to augmented reality, the customer can see all the necessary information on his display while he is carrying out on-site maintenance or repair work on the saw or storage system – and if he is using data goggles (smart glasses), his hands are also free, making his task even easier. Service engineers are on site virtually, which means they can advise and help your employees as required, obviating the need for complex training courses involving costly travel.
Intelligent solutions with practical customer benefits
KASTO intends to expand its portfolio in the future – and the products will be oriented on Industry 4.0. The acquisition and analysis of process data offers a great amount of potential, e.g. for preventive maintenance measures. Every new development or refinement is totally focused on the impressive range of practical benefits for users – and thanks to its Industry 4.0 solutions, metalworking companies can now make their manufacturing processes much more flexible and efficient, benefiting from the ideal utilisation of their machines, short non-productive times, lower maintenance costs, lower production costs and other advantages. Since the intelligent factory constantly monitors and optimises itself, the quality of the manufactured parts is also consistently high and operating errors are virtually eliminated. This in turn ensures a good competitive position and heightened customer satisfaction.