Multi-Million-Dollar Automation Investment Bore Fruit Immediately, on Several Levels
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MASKINOPERATÖREN AUTUMN 2023
Having grown from one-man’s horse drawn carriage workshop to a leading forestry product manufacturer with over 100 employees, Swedish company Hultdins can proudly say that their products are used in every second logging in the 35 countries they export to. Located in small Malå, two hours’ drive northwest of Umeå in Sweden, Hultdins is utilizing Fastems FMS as an answer the growing customer demand – both to increase production capacity and ensure timely deliveries in high-mix manufacturing.
The company is currently adopting a more streamlined approach to its production strategy for the future, incorporating automation and other new technologies alongside. The momentum is strong, and they have successfully accelerated production for a significant period.
Machine operator Oskar Björk has now worked for about 8 months with FMS in the new plant and thinks: “This is the future for the company but also for me as a person. When I found out that they had invested in a new and modern machining facility, I applied for the machine operator job immediately. Having the opportunity to work with tomorrow’s technology makes you really enjoy your job.”
“We really have one problem and that is finding more employees with the right skills. We’re always looking for people, but it’s difficult, and geographically we’re not in a good position, so we must rely on finding someone in the neighboring village who already has a job but is willing to switch to find new challenges. Young people would rather move to the big cities than stay here in the countryside, unfortunately,” says Production Technician Jan Persson. The company management has realized that if you want to grow and expand in little Malå, you have to automate as much as possible to scale up the capacity and to offer more modern and meaningful work to people.
Few years back, Hultdins discovered that the production flow was not optimal at the Malå factory. More and more forestry contractors were appreciating their products and with increasing orders, automation was found to be the key solution to increase the production rate and to meet the delivery dates.
They explored the market and found flexible manufacturing system concept and Fastems which seemed like an obvious choice for manufacturing multiple different parts efficiently. Edströms/Kitamura were selected as the machine supplier. “Throughout the procurement, there was an underlying idea and plan to be able to expand the FMS with another machine if necessary. The input from both Fastems and Edströms was and still is very valuable for us“, says Jan Persson.
We ask Henrik Brodén of Fastems on how the company’s automation philosophy reflects the facility we see today here at the factory in Malå.
“In general, we can say that one of Fastems’ mantras is zero downtime Our mission is to customize and tailor automation systems from simple machining operations to fully automated systems. Fastems is working hard to bring more and more flexible automation into the high-mix manufacturing industries and increase machining efficiency of all types of workshops from small to large. Flexibility and ability to extend and modify your system is important in today’s environment where conditions can change quickly”, says Henrik Brodén.
“We can offer customers a complete solution which is designed for their process instead of only loading parts in their machine tools. We design and oversee the entire manufacturing process, from raw material to finished details, centralizing everything so the automation system can truly plan just-in-time production based on order backlog and available production resources. Often this includes also automating the tool transfers into machining centers or for example, integrating AGVs to deliver materials,” explains Broden. “Everything is managed by Fastems MMS (Manufacturing Management Software) which plans, directs and monitors high-mix production. It serves as the nervous system of production, often integrated with other data systems like customer’s ERP or TDM software. The automation scope can range from automating a stand-alone machine to linking several machines, up to integrating also other processes such as finishing, washing and CMM.”
Hultdins’ Flexible Automation System
Hultdins’ FMS consists of an MLS (Multi-Level System) model XMD-2500, a storage for 14 machining pallets, an operator loading station and a touch panel. The loading station moves the pallets in and out of the system and rotates them for easier handling and better operator ergonomics. The automated horizontal machining center is HX800G from Kitamura.
To manage production resources vital for machining, the control software MMS includes cutting tool planning and wear features, as well as centralized NC-program management. Integration with Hultdins’ ERP ensures automatic transfers of work orders with their due dates. To monitor the system status and their KPIs, Hultdins is utilizing MMS Dashboard in a the screen above the system.
This article was originally published in Swedish in Maskinoperatören, autumn 2023. The link to the original story.