The trend towards automation is also making great strides in intralogistics. Users want their machines and systems to work more efficiently and safely while at the same time relieving employees of tiring, monotonous and physically heavy work. The BEUMER Group develops customized system solutions for conveying and loading, palletising and packaging, and sortation and distribution systems. The company equips them with efficient automation solutions depending on the customers’ requirements.
Efficient automation equipment which reduces cycle times as well as costs continues to be the focus for many users and is seen as an important factor for success. Companies from different sectors are therefore more and more frequently relying on automated system solutions that are specially tailored to meet their individual requirements. "The challenge for the future lies in the integration of these systems," explains Franz-Joseph Kleigrewe. The Automation Manager has been with the BEUMER Group since 1977 and knows what he is talking about. He is convinced that the dovetailing of processes will continue to increase. "Intralogistics is in a state of change. This is due to the demographic development as well as the increasing complexity of processes. Automation engineering in particular is therefore continuously encouraged," he says. In this way, manual operations can be optimized and expedient synergies formed between man and machine. Automation engineering is the key to technical development and further progress.
"Users no longer want just one system; they want a combination of several systems which are optimally matched to one another," says Kleigrewe, recognizing the market requirements. These include the innovative filling, palletising and packaging solutions which are deployed for example in the beverage and foodstuffs industry, in the building materials, electronics and pharmaceutical industry, and for the final packaging of animal feedstuffs and fertilizers. As an example, the specialist’s range includes the BEUMER fillpac for filling bags with cement or granulates. Bags are transported to the bag press by means of conveyors in order to exclude the air. They are then stacked flexibly, accurately and stably on pallets of all common sizes by the BEUMER paletpac high-performance layer palletizer. The user can quickly and easily set the required parameters. The BEUMER paletpac is equipped with a bar, clamp or double-belt turning device depending on the product requirements. These bring the filled bags quickly and gently into the required position while retaining their shape. BEUMER also offers the robotpac, a space-saving, fully automatic articulated robot which is able to perform complex palletising and depalletising tasks reliably and efficiently. Containers such as bags, cartons, boxes, canisters and trays can be stacked safely and economically. BEUMER has developed appropriate, flexibly exchangeable gripper systems for every packaged product. The pallets are then transported to the BEUMER stretch hood high-performance packaging machine. This packages the palletized stacks quickly and reliably. "In most cases, other systems are also incorporated into these packaging lines," remarks Kleigrewe. For example, when using granulates for the plastics industry, metal detectors are often incorporated in order to detect contamination. The bags can also be automatically conveyed to a weighing device in order to check the filling level by means of the weight. The bags are then usually transported to the label station where they are printed with a barcode. "We buy systems and machines which we do not have in our range from selected suppliers and incorporate them into our solutions," says Kleigrewe.
To enable the BEUMER Group to provide optimum user support, the intralogistics specialist has formed teams in the individual group companies and at the Beckum site which specialize in automation solutions. In the meantime, more than 200 employees work for the BEUMER Group in this area. "Our objective is to accelerate development cycles and to continuously raise the high standard which we have evolved as a result of our know-how," says Kleigrewe. "This is the only way we can provide the right solution for our customers and look after them in an optimum manner." The staff provide project support from the enquiry to the point of handover to the customer. First of all, the specialists produce a system draft. If this is suitable, it is passed on for implementation. The staff carry out the electrical installation and integrate the machine and system controls, as well as writing the software for the PLC and for the robot equipment. A graphical representation of the processes on a user interface is also part of the system. BEUMER also ensures that information is meaningfully transmitted between the different operating levels – for example by means of ERP and MES systems.
The system is set up in BEUMER’s in-house Technical Center. The staff carry out several tests to enable them to fulfill the user’s requirements. "We are helped in this by valuable experience which we have gathered from numerous projects throughout the world," says Kleigrewe with conviction. This is because the packaging machine film and granulates which are to be filled, palletized and packaged, behave differently in the cool climate of Germany than in Asiatic or African countries, for example. The prevailing temperatures there are different and the humidity can be considerably higher. When all the requirements have been fulfilled, the staff carry out the installation and commissioning on site. "The BEUMER specialists know exactly what to do to get the systems running as quickly as possible," says Kleigrewe.
Optimally matched at all times
When it comes to system development, three factors affect one another: customer orientation, innovation and standardization. In the case of projects which are matched to the customer’s individual requirements, the solutions can only be applied indirectly to other projects. Innovation projects provide major opportunities, such as significant competitive advantages for new projects. On the other hand, they require very stringent project management in order to adhere to costs and schedules. As there is no progress without these innovative projects, BEUMER regularly undertakes them while carefully weighing up the opportunities and risks. With the proven standard solutions, the customer is provided with a cost-effective and reliably operating system which he can put into operation in a very short time. "The processes usually differ with different users," remarks Kleigrewe. "This is why our solutions are always specially adapted – sometimes more, sometimes less." The ability to accommodate individual requirements is one of BEUMER’s strengths.
Common standards make for short project durations
"We often start from the situation where the larger the machine and the more systems are incorporated, the more control systems are used, and these have to be matched to one another," explains Kleigrewe. For example, four control systems have been developed at BEUMER over the years. "In order to be more flexible in design and also to enable commissioning to be carried out more quickly, our objective with all developments is to use a common drive concept as well as common machine and system controls," says Kleigrewe. "We provide conveyor elements and interface definitions for horizontal and vertical communication straight out of the box." For rapid development phases, the BEUMER Group has created a common software platform for all company employees. Product management and project management are all carried out using this platform. All staff involved in the project are provided with a common working environment.
The common basis makes for more efficient working and reduces project durations
When the systems have been commissioned, BEUMER Customer Support staff train the machine operators and the maintenance personnel. This is the only way to ensure that the customer gets the most out of the machine. Training brings machine operators up to date on technological advances and introduces new employees to the systems. "Automated solutions are particularly suited to continuous processes when systems run around the clock seven days a week," advises Kleigrewe. "This enables companies to save staff and for them to be deployed in other areas. Automated solutions are therefore amortized very quickly."