System integrators working with manufacturing companies have been a particular focus of Interroll for three years. We spoke to Maurizio Catino, Senior Director Global Sales & Services at Interroll, about the strategic importance of the materials flow in production facilities.
Maurizio, why is Interroll focusing on the topic of production logistics?
Because this is a very promising growth market for us. In addition to distribution logistics, which is driven primarily by the boom in e-commerce, in recent years production companies have also been expressing increasing interest in materials flow solutions based on powerful and efficient conveying systems. As a worldwide leading manufacturer of the necessary key components, we offer our customers a very high level of competence in this area, benefiting system integrators and plant manufacturers, as well as the end user. As a result, several discerning production companies have certified our products.
Elimination of waste, optimization of production process
Why does the manufacturing industry have an increased demand for operational conveyor solutions?
Many businesses, particularly within the international automotive industry, have realized that the application of the principles of World Class Manufacturing (WCM) open up a great deal of additional optimization potential, particularly in the area of materials flow. The WCM production system focuses on, among other things, the elimination of waste. Waste in production is not paid for by the end customer, and creates no added value. And this is precisely why efficient conveying solutions offer an interesting starting point for a continually optimized production process.
What do these solution approaches actually look like?
Let's take assembly as an example. In many cases, the individual components that are combined by employees on the assembly line or in manufacturing cells to create a product are still delivered and deposited highly inefficiently at the production line by the use of industrial trucks. Quite apart from the safety issues and potential damage, these transport devices and the resulting "manual storage" take up a lot of space. Experts estimate that 40 percent of the factory floor is already taken up by logistical tasks. The employee then still has to locate the required parts within his or her own mini storage area. This is a highly inefficient process that wastes time, space, and employee effort.
Materials flow for personalization
This scenario has existed for a long time. Why is now the time for a rethink?
Because this type of materials flow in industrial mass production can no longer be reconciled with the consumer's increasing desire for personalization. For example, car customers no longer simply select the external color of their new vehicles; they also want to decide on the interior design. This drastically increases the number of parts that need to be kept on hand for production and processing. This has consequences not only for the warehouses linked to the production area, but also for the flow of materials in the production area itself.
Intelligently-controlled conveying systems based on extr-low voltage RollerDrive
So, what are the more efficient solutions?
Generally, zero-pressure and modular conveying platforms based on DC RollerDrive are ideal solutions for considerably increasing productivity in production. These automated and intelligently-controlled conveying systems connect the production warehouse to the manufacturing workstations, while at the same time ensuring occasional buffering of the required parts to enable uninterrupted production. This ensures that parts are continuously supplied accurately and at high speed to the required workstation with the use of code readers or radio frequency identification (RFID) systems. The employee – or even a robot – then always has access to the exact parts needed for the current work process. At the same time, all relevant information is sent to the warehouse management system to automatically trigger parts replenishment.
So, an efficient materials flow therefore becomes an integral component of the production process?
Exactly. It helps logistics and production to grow closer together. The conveying solution has become an element of the business-critical infrastructure. Its failure could lead to all production operations being stopped. Even if they deliver major benefits, new solutions therefore initially undergo comprehensive testing by users. Many system integrators in the area of production planning who are extending their knowledge to the area of intralogistics provide support for their customers' international projects. When working with constantly changing local suppliers, the project complexity is increased and many unpredictable situations may arise. This is where international business partners such as Interroll offer advantages, since we offer the same consistently high quality throughout the world and our staff members are aware of the specific requirements of production facilities.