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Offering flexible automation for all

Fastems Sales Manager Henrik Brodén and Product Manager Ilkka Saarimaa sit down for a virtual interview with Joppe Christensen from Maskinregisteret. Among other things, the three discuss why many of today’s manufacturing solutions, such as pallet magazines, are simply not flexible enough. With this in mind, Ilkka and Henrik go through six reasons why the Norwegian metalworking industries should opt for flexible automation of the future.

The original article written in Norwegian by Joppe Christensen from Maskinregisteret can be found here. This post summarizes key points from the interview – be sure to visit their page to read the article in full.

Original Maskinregisteret article in full


Thinking outside the box

“Imagine a pallet magazine, which is an easy to buy and easy to implement automation solution for machine tools,” explains Ilkka. “It increases unmanned production periods and the use of machine tools by up to 65 percent – no wonder it’s such a popular alternative. That said, it’s wise to evaluate not only today’s needs, but also the needs of tomorrow before investing in automation. That’s why we want to tell you about the six important value-adding features of Fastems flexible automation.”


1. Expandable for multiple machines

The mix of parts for any company rarely stays the same for several years. These days, customers want more customized products at a faster pace, which means production has to adapt quickly. With a pallet magazine, you always need a new system for a new machine tool. In contrast, flexible automation can run multiple machine tools, and can be expanded later on to meet future needs. Furthermore, in flexible automation, all machines and pallets work under the same control. This means that an operator is able to run multiple machine tools, which in turn creates savings in both investments and operating costs.


2. Pallet production orders adapt to changes

When you load a pallet magazine, you also determine the production order: palette 1, palette 2, and so on. In flexible automation, however, the order of pallets to be processed is not set in stone. This is because the control behind the flexible automation, Fastems’ Manufacturing Management Software (MMS), continuously prioritizes the machining order of the pallets based on real-time customer orders. This ensures that every customer receives their orders reliably and on time, even if an order is placed at the last minute. In turn, this enables optimum machine utilization, combined with producing the right parts at the right time.


3. Predictive production planning

MMS monitors the entire production process in real time. This includes orders and due dates, as well as machine tools and capacity. Various resources, such as cutting tools, raw materials, fixtures and NC programs are also taken care of. MMS knows what needs to be done and when, and what machines and resources will be needed. The control sends alerts about missing resources in advance, so operators have time to prepare them before a machine stop.

Should an unexpected, unsolvable resource problem arise, MMS will redo the production plan so that the second most important orders are produced next. In turn, this allows operators to eliminate production stops – a key difference when compared to typical pallet magazines.


4. Higher pallet capacity with smaller footprint

In a pallet magazine, the number of pallets used per machine is limited. Instead of having a two to five-level pallet storage, flexible automation enables storage of machining and material pallets in a very compact floor area. The more machines (and pallet magazines) you need, the more space-saving flexible automation becomes.


5. Maximize and ensure unmanned capacity and reliability

It’s true that pallet magazines allow longer unmanned production periods. That said, one pallet magazine can only operate one machine tool and has a smaller pallet capacity compared to flexible automation. As a result, flexible automation not only multiplies unmanned production times – it also ensures that there are no unpleasant surprises on nights and weekends. This is because MMS instructs which production resources must be prepared in advance, before the manned shift ends. If something goes wrong, flexible automation ensures that the most critical work is still being done.


6. Real-time production monitoring

With pallet magazines, you only get information about using a single machine tool. However, with flexible automation, you get real-time status and KPI reports on total output. This allows you to easily see how well your capacity is being utilized and what the potential bottleneck resources are. In addition, you can see how your performance indicators look, so continuous production improvements can be made.


A solution even for the simplest of productivity needs

All of the factors mentioned above allow flexible automation to replace production with pallet magazines, even for the simplest productivity needs. But how to convince the Norwegian companies that are accustomed to piece production?

“Well, we’ve seen that our customers, right down to small businesses with ten to fifteen people on the payroll, have embraced Fastems’ way of thinking about flexible automation with great success. We believe that there is great potential for Norwegian companies to gain significantly greater profitability through flexible automation, and that it is increasingly important to keep the alternatives open for future expansions,” replies Ilkka.

The original article written in Norwegian by Joppe Christensen from Maskinregisteret can be found here. Visit their page to read the article in full.

Original Maskinregisteret article in full


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