There is a global yearning for automation in metal manufacturing. | So Good News
Germany Hanover, A visit to EuroBLECH 2022 on October 25-28 helps you understand that the metal industry is a much smaller world.
Visiting Europe 10 years ago, a North American developer would have seen shops with laser cutting and stamping machines coupled with automated material storage and loading/unloading systems. Continental European fabricators grapple with higher labor costs compared to their competitors in Eastern Europe. In expensive urban areas, the floor layouts of buildings need to invest in technology that can perform tasks that free up workers for more complex tasks.
Much has changed over the past decade, but the hunger for automation hasn’t. Not surprisingly, European metal producers have a new incentive to automate the process; It’s something their American counterparts are all too familiar with: Unable to find skilled workers.
Eurostat, which tracks European employment rates, reports that 3% of all jobs on the continent are vacant, the most since statistics of this data were first compiled in 2006. That’s about 6 million jobs. Also, the European Union’s unemployment rate fell to 6 percent in July, the lowest mark since 2001.
Compounding this labor situation is inflation rising to 10.7 percent in late October, a new record for Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed prices up by just over 40% and 13% above October 2021 prices, straining energy and food supplies. .
With all this working against manufacturers in Europe, it is surprising that they seem somewhat optimistic about the economy. EuroBLECH is a reflection of this feeling. The exhibition area covers 89,800 square meters. Both exhibit space and the same figures as the 2018 event, with just over 1,500 exhibitor booths. (EuroBLECH 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic.) More than 56,300 visitors attended the trade show, up from 60,600 in 2018.
EuroBLECH is the world’s largest metalworking and metalworking exhibition, attended by 40 countries. Attendees came from 105 countries, and these non-German visitors accounted for 49% of the total attendance.
Chief digital officer Alberto Martínez said that European metal fabrication customers are continuing with plans to invest in automation, even though they don’t know exactly what lies ahead. Current pressures are too hard to ignore.
“Others are being cautious and double-checking before moving forward,” he says, but they still know they must rely on technology to stay on the job and remain profitable.
Bystronic unveiled its new BySoft Suite software at the show, and it is noteworthy that the new release won the EuroBLECH award in the automation and handling category. After four years in development, the Bystronic digital manufacturing team not only has CAD/CAM functionality, but also front-office capabilities; Developed a software package that includes production scheduling and shop floor monitoring and business intelligence tools. Metal fabrication companies thought they would no longer rely on ERP and shop management software that had roots in other industries. This product was built for the sheet metal world.
“It covers the whole spectrum,” Martinez said.
This approach is significant, especially for metalworkers in North America who need help automating front office tasks so that costs and time can be taken out of order. This is especially true in the U.S., where in-store manufacturing does not have ERP functionality to support these operations. Martinez says European metal manufacturers are slightly ahead of their U.S. brethren in investing in this shop management software.
Focus on Flow.
EuroBLECH will feature the product debuts that industry folks have been waiting for—high-wattage fiber laser cutting machines; Brakes with automatic gear shifters and machine-printed brake cells—but that’s a message from equipment manufacturers. The goal for all of this automation on display in the gallery: It’s all about flow. From when the parts order is first placed and entered into the ERP system, until the parts are loaded onto the truck for delivery. to deliver components at each subsequent stage; optimal information flow; Searching for equipment and parts on the shop floor; The best way for metal fabricators to maintain profitable operations.
Some galleries demonstrate the concept within their galleries. Shear Brilliance is punched in the complete PSBB Compact Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) at Prima Power, the blank is cut from the sheet and sent to the EBe panel bender for final shapes. Salvagnini has his own version of FMS running in his shed: the MD single-sheet material storage tower; S1 laser/penetrating combination machine; A long TML tool with two telescopic Cartesian manipulators for automatic picking of parts produced by S1; and a PCD destacking conveyor screen that feeds the P4 panel bending machine. Salvagnini has vehicle parts automatically guided from the panel bender to a nearby press brake for further bending. LVD operated a cell with a Dyna-Cell robotic bending machine for small-to-medium parts connected to a YSD LaserONE laser cutting machine and CADMAN software. All ready-to-ship parts manufacturing systems produce parts for assembly in an assembly that is charged by the line operator while waiting for a piece of equipment or parts to come out of the bending machines.
Sometimes product spills from one shed and flows into a nearby shed. ARKU, a manufacturer of deburring and part-leveling equipment, has integrated its EdgeBreaker 6000 with TRUMPF production scheduling software. By looking at the control software of the deburring machine; The operator can only see one row from the TRUMPF booth during many laser cutting jobs. Once the operator is done with the deburring process, TRUMPF staff were notified that the software had been updated and that the parts were ready for pickup.
The software provides on-site or off-site software that enables company owners and managers to run their operations more efficiently. Identify bottlenecks on the shop floor; Machines can have maintenance tabs to avoid painful downtime; You can determine how much capacity is available before taking on large jobs or adding work shifts; You can review referral activity to see job profitability and track jobs. They work through a shop, to name a few, of digital connectivity and visibility within the organization. It is called Industry 4.0, It’s called the Industrial Internet of Things or digital manufacturing. It is the motivation behind such efforts that has global appeal for metal producers.
“Manufacturers are always interested in making things more efficient,” said Matt Fowles, marketing director at LVD Group, which introduced a new laser cutting machine and an electric press brake at the show. “If they make it more efficient, they make more margins. So the job shops earn income.
Focus on Sustainability.
Europeans in general differ in some way from their American counterparts. Maybe it’s the way they view sustainability. They cannot move away from the problems of their environment because they have limited space within their borders to retreat to. They have to continue to live there, so they need to take care of their environment. In addition, in particular, This winter, Because of Russia’s supply chain games, they are willing to save energy because they have limited fuel to keep the lights on and run the heaters.
The sustainability discussion is alive and well for device manufacturers. They discussed incorporating servo electric motors into their equipment as the motors allow for very efficient and precise operation. Even with hydraulic press brakes. Variable-flow pumps have helped transform these devices from energy emitters to more efficient bending machines.
In addition to developing machines, technological advances are also occurring. for example, TRUMPF has unveiled the Eco Cooler to replace conventional cooling systems that rely on fluorine gas to cool laser cutting machines while they are operating. A device that works in the same way as a heat pump uses water as a coolant; TRUMPF officials report that it uses 80% less energy for refrigeration than conventional refrigeration. There is no danger to worry about.
For many companies, the commitment to sustainability extends beyond the engineering department. For example, Salvagnini redesigned his booth to reduce the waste that typically results from showroom construction. As a result, The shed has no carpet and instead uses a concrete hall floor or sheet metal floor which is actually recyclable. The buildings in the gallery were reduced in size and built with lighter materials. Company officials said they were able to ship the tent equipment to EuroBLECH in two trailers instead of the usual eight. That means less fossil fuel burning and less heading to the landfill.
EuroBLECH is similar to a European auto show, says a veteran of the US metalworking industry. Metal producers are seeing the latest and greatest technology headed to North American shores. It’s accurate, but it’s also an opportunity to see trends that can shape business decisions for US metal fabricators.