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Automatic storage system ensures efficient sheet metal processing

To create space and capacity for growth, a new 4,000 sq m plant has been built on a 25,000 sq m site in the German town of Hettenleidelheim by Blum GmbH, a company that specialises in sheet metal working and switch cabinet manufacture. It supplies anything from individual parts through small and large batches to complete assemblies.

The company holds raw sheet material and finished parts in a high density Uniline sheet storage system supplied by Achern-based Kasto. It ensures safe and reliable material handling and efficient supply to connected flat-bed sheet metalworking machinery. Bending and folding as well as manual and robotic welding are also carried out on site.

Blum’s managing director since 2003, Jörg Neu explained, “When the company was founded in the 1960s our premises were on the edge of town, but over the years they were encircled by residential areas. Large trucks were finding it increasingly difficult to enter and leave.

“In addition, the buildings were showing their age and were not high enough to accommodate new, larger machines. So we decided to relocate and at the same time gain additional capacity to increase production.”

At the previous factory, mild steel, stainless steel and aluminium sheet were stored in a warehouse served by forklifts. Machine operators moved material to the production machinery by hand, which was time-consuming and laborious. To cut costs, the company decided to streamline and automate these operations but wanted to do so independently of the metalworking machine suppliers.

Neu recalls, “We described our requirements to Kasto, who took all of our needs into account and found a solution that was not only cost effective but also ideal for our needs. Modular design of the storage facility makes optimum use of the available building height. They were the decisive factors.”

Kasto installed an 8-metre high Uniline inline storage system with space for up to 686 pallets that can hold sheets measuring up to 3 x 1.5 m. They enter the warehouse via a station with a longitudinal carriage, from where they are transported automatically to a free location by a storage and retrieval machine. It is equipped with dynamic drives for fast, direct material handling.

Integrated KASTOlogic warehouse management software allows Blum operators to identify the position of every pallet and the stock it holds, as the information is keyed in at the control panel using an intuitive graphical user interface as the material is stored.

At the front of the warehouse are seven stations with lateral transport carriages for removing and returning material. There are also two metalworking machines, including a pre-existing laser cutting machine fed by a manually operated overhead crane. However, when new material is needed, employees can request it by simply pressing a button and the pallet arrives automatically in a matter of seconds.

A newly purchased punch press and laser cutting combination machine capable of unattended operation is connected directly to the storage system. KASTOlogic software interfaces with any control system, regardless of manufacturer. A loading and unloading device with vacuum suction units picks up sheets that have been taken from storage and conveys them automatically to the new facility, saving time and lightening the operators’ workload. Cut parts are automatically put back onto a system pallet for storage.

The warehouse control has been connected to Blum’s ABAS enterprise resource planning system and to Kasto’s Achern factory for remote diagnostics and troubleshooting.

Neu concluded, “Kasto did a great job here. The warehouse runs perfectly and has given us significant gains in speed, efficiency, transparency and safety.”

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