Digitisation and networking are rapidly on the rise in metal processing, even in storage and sawing technology. Manual processes that are isolated from one another are increasingly yielding to a continuously controlled, intelligent material flow in which all the components involved communicate autonomously with one another. At KASTO, this topic is no longer a vision of the future: The saw and storage technology manufacturer already has numerous solutions in its portfolio to make metal processing more efficient, flexible and cost-effective in times of Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 has long been established in all areas of modern metal processing. Machines, systems, goods and load carriers are digitally networked and can communicate with each other. To achieve this, intelligent sensor systems provide up-to-date status information in real time. All process-relevant data are collected and analysed. This enables users to optimise their complete value-added chain in a decentralised, autonomous and requirement-oriented manner. As a result, the path from raw material to the finished product is faster, more flexible, resource-friendly and more cost-effective, which helps metalworking companies from all sectors to meet the increasing demands of international competition.
This begins with storage: Instead of the previously widely used floor or cantilever storage method, metal processing companies are focusing more and more on fully automated bar stock storage systems. These impressive software-controlled systems offer a significantly larger storage density, fast access times and maximum inventory transparency. These systems can also be used to implement various storage strategies that are perfectly adapted to the needs of the respective company: For instance, users can store single bars, whole or opened bundles manually or automatically, as well as transfer between different storage areas, depending on which process offers the most efficiency. This saves considerable time and costs in the long term.
Sawing technology – often the first processing station after retrieval – is also increasingly organized without human intervention. Sawing machines equipped with manipulators and conveyor technology can also be connected seamlessly to the raw material storage system that supply them with the required materials. The sawing procedure itself also runs autonomously with the corresponding equipped machine. The result is highly integrated systems that are seamlessly incorporated into a continuous material flow – the smart factory.
Fully automated from the raw material to the finished part
A leading provider of Industry 4.0 solutions for metal processing is KASTO Maschinenbau. The company develops combined storage-saw-robot systems for its customers, in which all storage, handling, cutting, marking, palletising and bundling processes operate fully automatically, from the storage of the raw material to the picking of the cut pieces. Seamless communication is essential: to put it simply, all the components involved must speak the same language. Integrated control systems and suitable interfaces make this communication possible. KASTO developed, for instance, KASTOlogic, a module Warehouse Management System (WMS), which is specifically designed for the storage requirements of bar stock and sheet metal. It provides a clear and transparent illustration of all processes between goods receipt and shipping and ensures efficient control of the entire material flow – including the storage system, connected conveyor technology and processing machines with the appurtenant material handling.
The software optimizes the processes in and around the warehouse, thus making intralogistics faster, more reliable and efficient. For example, it configures more efficient travel paths of operating gantry cranes by avoiding empty runs and placing more frequently required items closer to storage and retrieval stations than those needed less often. The management of orders, batches, residual pieces, trim cuts, a permanent inventory, and the ability to apply various in-out strategies and order picking principles flexibly are additional functions provided by KASTOlogic. Comprehensive statistics and analytical tools monitor both the utilised capacity of the overall system and that of individual components. As a result, the full potential of the intralogistics can be unleased: Redundant travel distances or unnecessary waiting periods are avoided. Furthermore, possible changes can be simulated and tested in advance and without the risk.
The best interface for every system
By utilising customised interfaces, the WMS KASTOlogic, as well as individual machine controls from KASTO, can be easily connected to a higher-level host system in the company – from SAP via Infor or Microsoft Dynamics to customer-specific software solutions. The resulting uniform communication structure significantly enhances transparency and efficiency. Orders can be controlled conveniently and in a user-friendly manner, and the data collected and recorded in the storage systems and sawing machines can be used and analysed comprehensively. This enables, for example, comprehensive tracking of specific goods and workpieces, even utilisation of the machine park with short ancillary times, improved quality control or better planning of maintenance measures. Residual piece lengths and inventory levels can also be sustainably optimised with the corresponding information, significantly reducing production costs.
KASTOlogic can also be used to manage manually operated warehouses. For this purpose, KASTO developed the app KASTOlogic mobile: The application is suitable for mobile devices and allows the user to transmit all transactions such as stock receipts and transfers, picking, shipping and inventory information to the WMS via smartphone or tablet. This is particularly easy with a handheld device available from KASTO, which, in addition to an easy-to-read display and robust housing, also features an integrated barcode scanner. The employee simply records the required information for the respective order item with the device, which wirelessly transmits the information to the management system. Transparency and traceability are at the same level as in automatic software-controlled warehouses. A so-called "Pick-by-Crane" system can also be easily implemented with KASTOlogic mobile: To do so, the operator controls a connected indoor crane via the app, which performs the travel motion independently, based on the corresponding coordinates. The system is coupled with the crane's weighing system, and the corresponding weight is transferred at the touch of a button.
Use energy sparingly and intelligently
A high share of the operating costs of automated warehouses is attributable to energy consumption. But also in this area, Industry 4.0 offers considerable potential for optimisation: For instance, KASTO developed an innovative concept for energy recovery and storage with KASTOenergysave. Excess potential or kinetic energy can thus be converted into electricity, temporarily stored in double layer capacitors and used flexibly as required. An intelligent automatic control charges and discharges the energy storage depending on the process currently running. The energy remains in the system until it is reused. Due to a virtually constant current consumption from the power grid, the grid peripherals can operate in rated-load operation. Users can thus additionally reduce the connected load of the operating gantry crane by more than 50 percent. The energy storage also avoids peak loads, saving further costs.
Reduce waste and extend service life
In addition to energy efficiency, material efficiency also plays a vital role in metal processing, such as sawing. Here, users face the challenge of making optimum use of the material by avoiding waste to keep costs at a minimum. KASTO also uses the opportunities offered through digitisation with its software KASTOoptisaw: Considering various machine parameters such as kerf width and minimum kerf length, the system ensures an optimal assignment of the stored bar stock to the respective sawing orders. Because often companies store bars, tubing, and profiles with various lengths and different mitre angles based on previous orders of the same material. Thanks to KASTOoptisaw, this material can be used with minimum waste, reducing costs and saving space in the storage system since unusable remnants no longer must be returned to storage.
KASTOrespond is another smart innovation for sawing technology: This system "senses" the property of the material to be cut by utilising intelligent sensor technology and adjusts the cutting parameters as needed. This technology offers significant benefits especially when cutting profiles, inhomogeneous materials or variances in the strength of the workpiece. As a result, users can sustainably optimise the service life and utilisation of their tools. In addition, it is possible to prevent errors resulting due to incorrect operation of the sawing machine reliably.
Efficient sawing with robot connection
With the robot connection KASTOsort, KASTO offers a solution to automate production processes upstream and downstream of the sawing process that can be integrated into a uniformly controlled material flow. Industrial robots can independently remove the cut pieces and perform numerous other tasks: from deburring and chamfering to centring and threading, marking and printing, weighing, sorting, packing density-optimised stacking and order picking. KASTOsort impresses with its intelligence: For instance, depending on the material, shape, weight or other characteristics of the workpieces, the control system selects the appropriate gripper, the most suitable load carrier and the optimum pattern. Depending on the customer's needs, KASTO integrates the robot control into the saw control system, the WMS KASTOlogic or into an existing ERP system. The user can also control and monitor this work step via a central interface and benefits from an optimally coordinated process chain.
Beyond storage and sawing technology, KASTO also offers digital and networked solutions for transporting materials and workpieces. For example, the company developed the intelligent tour distribution system KASTOrail that efficiently and ergonomically prepares picking bundles for shipping. Another possibility, for example, to intelligently automate manual pallet storage systems, is to use an automated guided vehicle (AGV) system. Autonomous vehicles can utilise robots to retrieve cut pieces stacked on pallets from the saw's work area and temporarily store them or transport them directly to shipping. To do so, the control system of the AGV can also be integrated into KASTOlogic with its own interface to attain a uniformly managed material flow. Roller shutter doors that open or close by activating light barriers allow industrial trucks to access the sawing machine while protecting employees from injury.
KASTOapp: Machines in view at all times
Mobile devices are used more and more in industrial production. For this purpose, KASTO introduced the KASTOapp, an application for the clear visualisation of its sawing machines. It provides a status overview of all KASTO machines in the network that feature the control systems SmartControl, AdvancedControl, ProControl or ExpertControl. The name and condition of each saw, along with the machine number and model, can be seen at a glance. If a saw is operating in automatic mode, the KASTOapp can also access the information stored in the respective machine control system. The user has access to precise information on all relevant parameters, such as article, cut-piece length, target and actual quantity, and feed and cutting speed. If an error occurs in the operating sequence, the app visualises the pending error message, and the user can react quickly. Downtimes can thus be reduced to a minimum.
VisualAssistance: Remote maintenance with augmented reality
With its assistance system VisualAssistance, KASTO takes it one step further: This system utilises the concept of augmented reality to simplify the remote maintenance of machines and systems. The core component is an interactive app for tablets, smartphones or smart glasses. Customers can connect with service staff via video and audio stream. Users and technicians share the same visual field in real time. It makes mutual understanding significantly easier and helps to quickly identify individual system components and possible malfunctions.
The app also makes it possible for KASTO experts to provide visual assistance and for example, show markings in the live video. While the customer carries out the maintenance or repair on-site on the saw or warehouse, they are provided all the information needed directly on their display. If using the smart glasses, the customer's hands are free, making it easier to do the work. The KASTO service technicians are on-site virtually and direct the employees as needed. This eliminates the need for time-consuming training or expensive travel.
Intelligent solutions with practical customer benefits
In the future, KASTO plans to further expand its portfolio significantly in the direction of Industry 4.0. The acquisition and analysis of process data at hand offers enormous potential, for example, for preventive maintenance measures. With every new or further development, the focus is on the practical benefit for the user. And it is already immense: With KASTO's Industry 4.0 solutions, metalworking companies can significantly increase the efficiency and flexibility of their production. They benefit from optimum utilisation of their machines, short ancillary times, minimum maintenance requirements and lower production costs. Since the intelligent factory permanently monitors and optimises itself, the quality of the manufactured parts remains consistent. Operating errors are virtually eliminated. This in turn ensures satisfied customers and a solid competitive position.
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