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Tower storage improves manufacturing efficiency

Posted on 03 Aug 2021 and read 1421 times
Tower storage improves manufacturing efficiencyThe Swiss company Mechtop has installed a Kasto UNITOWER tower storage system with 108 cassettes for storing stock up to 6m in length

Founded in 1995 as a machinery maintenance firm, Mechtop now has over 50 employees designing and building conveyor systems, tanks, pipework and custom steel structures such as railings and staircases.

Located in Wangen bei Olten in northern Switzerland, the multi-faceted company needs a high degree of flexibility in its day-to-day manufacturing operations, so it has upgraded its materials logistics by installing two tower storage systems from Kasto, as well as a bandsaw from the same manufacturer.

Mechtop has traditionally served a wide range of sectors including the paper, automotive, chemical, nuclear, environmental and pharmaceutical industries. Acquisition of a conveyor company in 2016 led to a concentration in this technology, with eight project managers currently creating conveyor solutions mainly for the food and beverage industries.

Demands placed on Mechtop by these sectors are particularly stringent, with strict hygiene standards, fierce international competition and time and cost pressures to match. Suppliers have to deliver top quality products reliably every time, otherwise confidence in a brand is quickly eroded. Consequently the machines and systems used in plant manufacture must meet rigorous standards.

Dominic Felice, a director of Mechtop said: “We mainly manufacture small and very small batches down to one-offs. This is often the case when spare parts are needed urgently, for instance.

“To meet these demands, we need systems that are versatile enough to deal with a range of processes, including our internal logistics. We try to make delivery of raw materials through to shipment of our products as seamless as possible.”

The most commonly used materials are stainless steels, since the finished components and systems must be suitable for use in hygiene-sensitive food applications. The company processes sheet metal as well as long stock including bar, tube and profile. In the past, both of these raw material types were stored in manually operated cantilever storage facilities.

Mr Felice continued: “This was extremely time-consuming and laborious. Employees first had to search for the required items and then painstakingly remove them by hand or forklift.”

KastoMechtop therefore decided to modernise and automate its storage infrastructure.by investing in a compact KASTOecostore and a UNITOWER tower storage system, both manufactured by the German company Kasto, based in Achern, whose Milton Keynes subsidiary Kasto Ltd sells the group’s storage and sawing solutions into the UK and Irish markets.

Mr Felice added: “We already knew of Kasto’s good reputation for supplying reliable, high-quality products. In consultation with the supplier, we decided on the most suitable solution after considering various potential options.”

Both storage facilities are space-saving tower systems with a loading height specially designed to meet Mechtop’s requirements. The UNITOWER is equipped with 108 storage cassettes for holding long stock up to 6min length. The cassettes are lined with aluminium to avoid damage to the stainless steel materials during storage. The KASTOecostore has 26 pallet storage shelves able to accommodate sheet material up to 3 x 1.5m.

The two tower storage systems are positioned on the outer wall of Mechtop’s factory. The UNITOWER was installed in a 3m deep pit, enabling optimal space utilisation despite the limited building height. The bar stock storage system has an external goods delivery station that can be accessed directly by delivery lorries.

Sheets are brought into the factory through a roller door and transferred to the internal storage and retrieval stations of the KASTOecostore. An internal handling device automatically takes the pallets and cassettes to the allocated storage location, making the material available on a goods-to-man principle.

Mr Felice explained: “The automatic storage systems offer us a range of advantages. We’ve gained a lot of valuable space, a better overview of our inventory and more control over our stocks, so we can work more productively and efficiently.

“Inventory management is via our SAP but the two storage facilities are not connected to it. Kasto would also have made this possible, but given the diversity of our orders and the small batch sizes, it didn’t seem necessary.”

The two Kasto storage systems have been in operation at Mechtop since the beginning of 2020. At the same time, the company invested in a KASTOmicut A 2.6 automatic bandsaw. It is designed to cut-to-length and mitre sections of tubes, profiles and bar.

KastoWith a cutting range of up to 260mm diameter and infinitely adjustable mitre angles from -45 to +60 degrees, the pivot-bow bandsaw offers enough scope to cut a wide range of materials. The heavy cast iron saw frame ensures high quality processing, even of materials that are difficult to cut — accuracy is to within ±0.1mm per 100mm of stock length.

Intelligent additional equipment enables largely unmanned operation for processing parts in batches of up to about 20 pieces. The automatic material infeed is particularly beneficial, as the saw can process a series of batch orders without manual intervention. Sawn sections are transported via a chute to a bin where they are collected by the operators.

Blade tension on the KASTOmicut is electrically monitored and can be continuously adjusted by means of a manual ratchet. Hydraulically actuated, horizontally acting vices optimise clamping of the stock and make it possible to separate short rest pieces (30mm for single cuts and 40mm in automatic operation), maximising material usage. An integrated sensor automatically detects the end of the workpiece, so no manual presets are necessary.