Producing series of one
“One-piece-flow”, is how Guy Schramme, director of Schramme Industries in Roeselare, sums up the company’s philosophy. All orders have to be capable of being completed randomly mixed up with each other, whether one-off items or series. Just-in-time and without changeover downtime. This can be done by linking all production machines to a 70-metre long warehousing system from Fastems.
The new production hall of Schramme Industries has in fact been built around the Fastems warehousing system in order to give full expression to the philosophy of ‘one-piece-flow’. With the logistics zone on one side of the warehouse, with the four loading stations (to be extended to seven) and their feed lines. The castings and other semi-finished products are loaded onto the product pallets here and hydraulically fixed in place. The finished product is also extracted here and made ready for despatch. The currently six horizontal OKK processing machines (supplied through Gibas in Nijkerk), on which the products are processed, are at the back of the warehouse. The machines are fitted with a switching table, so that machine downtime is limited to no more than a few seconds when switching finished and semi-finished product.
It is the warehouse with its integrated robot cars on rails that seamlessly links the logistics and processing zones and ensures that the right products are delivered to the processing machines at the right time. Apart from the manpower needed to load the pallets and other logistical work, the entire production system operates almost without manning.
The Fastems warehouse at Schramme Industries is of the type MLS-MD. MLS stands for ‘multi level system’ and indicates that the warehouse can be built up on several floors. In this way a highly compact construction may be achieved with as low floor area as possible. MD stands for ‘medium duty’ and means that the warehouse is suited to pallet formats of 630 mm x 630 mm and weights up to 1,500 kg per pallet. The MLS warehouse can be built up in accordance with what Henk Kremers, authorised Fastems dealer in the Benelux, calls the Lego Principle.
“In this way we can coordinate the warehouse completely flexibly with the wishes and needs of the customer, with respect to structure and size.”
In the case of Schramme Industries, the warehouse contains 238 pallet locations, and over the impressive length of 70 metres there is in total space for seven loading stations and no fewer than 19 processing machines. At the moment there are six processing machines actually in operation, all of horizontal type HM630 from OKK. Schramme’s preference for horizontal processing machines is primarily to do with the options for automation and with stability. In his view, horizontal processing is outstandingly suited to heavy and high-value milling work.
One of the loading stations, where the semi-finished product is attached to the pallets with the aid of hydraulic tightening systems
The Fastems warehouse is leading where production flow is concerned. Put another way: Fastems’ MMS software (Manufacturing Management System) is what determines the storage locations, the production sequence and the selection of the processing machine. “On the basis of the order, the Fastems warehouse guides the entire logistics circuit,” as Kremers expresses it, referring here to ‘the brain’ of the system. The new MMS5 software is in operation at Schramme Industries. On the basis of the planning, this software sends the empty pallets to the loading stations and also controls all tightening equipment, (measuring) tools and other aids that have to be on hand to keep the machines constantly at work.
It is clear that linking all these software packages at various levels, from the planning software to controlling the machines, is a key factor in the end result. Kremers: “The line’s profitability is determined by the software.” Fastems takes charge of this aspect and is responsible for it. Schramme thus refers to Fastems primarily as a software provider, rather than as a supplier of warehousing systems.
The entire planning and process progress of each machine can be followed visually in real time through the warehouse’s central control console, as well as a logbook and relevant statistics related to the production process. Through a teleservice faults can be analysed and resolved and support can be offered during production. This service is available 8,760 hours a year (365 x 24), “to put as many spindle hours on the clock as possible”.
No more special orders
It is the combination of great flexibility and the same level of automation that appeals to Schramme. “The entire production flow is set to a series volume of one,” as he puts it. As downtime through changeover has effectively been cut to nil, it does not matter whether a single product or a series must be manufactured, although multiple series work continues to form the basis at Schramme Industries. However, subsequent supply of an additional product no longer implies an exceptional order with extra costs, but instead simple routine. “In fact one could say that with us there is one large order constantly running,” is how Schramme aptly summarises the situation. The only precondition is that a product ‘fits into the production line in such a way that the flow of production is not disrupted’. This has mainly to do with the scope and nature of the processes and is weighed up in advance.
From 700 KG to 25 TONNES
J. Schramme sr. laid the basis for Schramme Toelevering in 1960. At the time gearwheel production was the main line, but gradually this business was extended to the position of general supplier, with a combination of options in the areas of turning, milling, grinding and assembly. The second generation has now taken over in the shape of Guy Schramme (operational aspects) and Philippe Schramme (sales and finances). With a view to retaining its leading position as supplier, Schramme Industries was spun off in 2006 to concentrate completely on (horizontal) milling work. At the time around a Fastems warehouse system as well, which however provided space for only five processing machines. For this reason expansion took place in 2013 to new premises with a production line for 19 machines. The company is currently engaged in launching mechanical assembly as an additional service.
Focus on milling
MLS warehouses are supplied by Fastems in various models. These range from formats of 500 mm x 500 mm pallets and a maximum weight of 700 kg with the type LD (light duty), up to pallet formats of 6 m x 6 m and a maximum weight of 25,000 kg with the type UXD. The options available to the customer include fully tailor-made models. In addition the company also supplies simple systems in the form of pallet containers and warehouses, along with a full range of accessories, such as grippers and other aids.