Benefits of automation at Unitrunk

Lisburn-based manufacturer of cable management solutions achieves growth and greater flexibility

Posted on 20 May 2019 and read 837 times
Benefits of automation at UnitrunkUnitrunk, a leading UK specialist in the design and manufacture of cable management solutions (and the largest user of Amada machines in the island of Ireland), is reaping the benefits of part-picker units that can automatically stack completed parts from its punch presses.

This ability is a significant improvement on the previous requirement for manual labour to shake parts from the ‘skeleton’ sheet.

Unitrunk has invested in shopfloor automation to capture further market share and accelerate its growth.

The company, which is based in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, says recent investments in automation from Kidderminster-based Amada (UK) Ltd ( are both saving time and introducing greater levels of flexibility.

Established for over 50 years, Unitrunk has a successful track record of supplying the construction and electrical sectors with a wide range of cable management solutions, and the 105-employee business is now a multi-million-pound concern with six sales and distribution depots across the UK (Livingston, Durham, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Bristol and Harlow), as well as one in Dublin and a sister company (Vantrunk) in Runcorn.

Process engineer Mark Cartmill said: “Our growth over the past decade has been driven by production efficiency on the shopfloor, as well as manufacturing automation, without any increase in additional labour.”

He highlights the recent installation of an Amada CS ‘stockyard automation system’ linking two Amada EM-series punch presses (one existing and one new) that are fed by LIII loaders and unloaded by TK-3015R part picker/removal units.

“Previously, we had stand-alone punch presses with Amada MP load/unload systems, but with the CS stockyard, we now have no waiting for material to arrive or leave.

“In addition, we can process a much wider range of material without any manual intervention whatsoever.

“The system offers full unmanned production, easy stock management, and part picking/stacking.

“Moreover, with the addition of the new Amada EM-3612ZR T punch press, we have fully automated tool selection in about 10sec — in hidden time while the sheet is running — providing high levels of flexibility.”

Review process

Unitrunk completed a thorough review process, assessing a number of stockyard automation systems before opting for the Amada CS from a final shortlist of two.

The company is currently in the process of writing upwards of 15,000 programs for the new system — a task it hopes to complete within 12 months.

Operations director Graham Milligan said: “Our MRP/ERP system determines batch sizes based on min/max stock levels, while also considering any orders on the system.

Benefits 2“We make for both stock and to order; for the latter, we can ‘nest on the fly’ to meet short lead times.”

Mr Cartmill adds: “We only run a single shift, so we need to maximise our unmanned production capabilities.

“With the previous MP loaders, we could only unload up to 3 tonnes at a time, but we can run continuously with the CS; and with the MP loaders, we could only load two gauge sizes, whereas we can now run any gauge size and any material type.

“Change-overs are automatic and take just 2-3min; the previous manual process relied on a fork-lift truck and driver.”

Mr Cartmill says that the company typically processes 0.9- and 1.2mm-thick galvanised steel sheet, but sometimes up to 3.0mm for specials.

It also processes stainless steel and ‘black’ steel (un-galvanised) product ranges.

Flexible production

Unitrunk’s on-going investment in automation has given the company high levels of flexibility and a fast response in providing products that include standard trunking, cable trays, channels, supports, cable baskets, floor trunking and a wide range of accessories.

Unitrunk has also developed a series of rapid installation systems; these include its patented UniKlip for cable trays (said to be three-times faster than standard cable tray systems) and the patented EasyConnect cable basket system.

The breadth and quality of Unitrunk’s product range are such that the company has been selected for many prestigious construction projects.

Recent examples include: the Obel tower (the tallest skyscraper in Northern Ireland); Southern General Hospital (Scotland); the first-ever ‘Eco’ superstore for Tesco in Northern Ireland; the Titanic Signature building in Belfast; and Newcastle United Football Club.

Benefits 3Mr Milligan said: “We never sell on price, but on factors such as quality and serviceability — making products that are easier or quicker to install, so that users can save time and money on site.

“Investment in the quick-turnround automated punching cell is a way of future-proofing our business and helping sales to grow even further.

“In the near future, we will probably look at greater integration with our folding machines. For us, success is all about reducing dead time between processes.”

The benefits of automation are achieved without any compromise in quality.

Indeed, Unitrunk products meet and surpass all relevant standards through in-house manufacturing to ISO 9001:2015.

The company has also achieved the ISO 14001:2015 environmental accreditation, as well as the OHSAS 18001 health and safety accreditation.

Amada machines and equipment at Unitrunk comprise: a CSII 300-12 compact store (2018); an EM-3612ZR T punch press (2018); an EMZ-3610NT punch press (2005); two LIII 300 loading systems (2018); two TK-3015R part-picker/removal units (2018); an HG-1003ATC press brake (2017); an HFE-1003M2 four-axis press brake (2014); an HFP-5020S press brake (2008); and a Vipros 358K punch press (2000).

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