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SFS: Efficient C-Parts Logistics Digitalization Improves Materials Management

Author / Editor: Konrad Mücke / Alexander Stark

The contract and equipment manufacturer Rapid Technic AG based in Killwangen, Germany, presented the benefits of modern procurement logistics for tools and industrial supplies to trade visitors. Together with the specialist trade service provider SFS the company hosted an Open House event.

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Single axle tractors are used in agriculture and municipal services and are reliable and robust drive units as well as universal equipment carriers.
Single axle tractors are used in agriculture and municipal services and are reliable and robust drive units as well as universal equipment carriers.
(Source: Konrad Mücke)

On September 12th, the agricultural and municipal equipment manufacturer welcomed more than 250 invited guests in Killwangen. The company focused on its role as a strong contract manufacturer. The specialists from Killwangen recently expanded their production capacities again. The contract manufacturer is focusing on large components in small and medium-sized series production.

The company's major customers are the railway industry, the aerospace industry and general mechanical and special engineering companies. This includes machining of gearbox housings and valve blocks made of cast iron, but also various components made of aluminum and titanium. Of course, Rapid's technicians also manufacture all the necessary components for the company's own range of single-axle tractors, such as axle, gear and clutch housings, valve blocks, axles and shafts, as well as the components for the attachments, such as cutter bars.

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Specialist for Stir-Friction Welding

The specialist visitors to the Killwangen site were particularly interested to learn more about stir-friction welding. The contract manufacturer Rapid is one of only a few companies in Switzerland or even throughout Europe that successfully apply this joining process. It can be used to reliably join components made of different steel and non-ferrous metal alloys. A particular advantage of this method is that the workpieces heat up only slightly and thus warp only minimally or not at all. In addition, the joined components are leak-proof with regard to liquids and gases. For this reason, this welding process can be used in particular to manufacture housings for heat exchangers, cooling and heating units, measuring instruments and similar applications. Even components with widely differing volumes and dimensions can be joined without problems. This applies, for example, to very thin plates on thick-walled housings or very small components on large blocks. Stir-friction welding is carried out by a specially profiled carbide tool (like a drilling/milling tool) which penetrates the material in a rotating manner and is then advanced along the contours to be joined. The material is heated up until it forms a tough plastic state and the different components are blended. The result is a homogeneous material. Since only small forces are applied, the process requires only light fixtures for clamping the workpieces. The contract manufacturer Rapid in Killwangen has a large, five-axis portal machine. In addition to flat components, it can also weld any three-dimensionally shaped components.

After welding, the components can be removed from the machine immediately. The only rework required is to mill or grind the surface to achieve the required surface quality. The joined components can easily be machined by any machining process, even in the area of the weld seam.

Optimizing Production Processes

A contract manufacturer like Rapid operates especially flexible when throughput times are minimized. This is achieved, for example, by clamping several frequently recurring workpieces in special fixtures next to each other. This applies, among other things, to axle housings for single-axle tractors. The production technicians in Killwangen presented some devices and explained the corresponding processes. The raw parts are clamped on a pallet in such a way that all the individual parts required for a device are completely machined on all sides in one production run in the Flexible Manufacturing System (Fastems). The technicians report that the most important result is a favorable ratio of clamping and machining times. During the usual working shifts, the workers clamp the castings on pallets equipped with the special fixtures. Afterwards they are available in the magazine of the FFS. The machining centers in the FMS process the components in accordance with the planned order sequences and the programmed priorities. This can also be done in unattended shifts overnight or at weekends.

Other components, such as those manufactured for the first time on a contract basis, are clamped to standard fixtures. In the FFS, these workpieces are usually machined during supervised shifts. This ensures that the required accuracies are maintained. Of course, the contract manufacturer in Killwangen has high-quality measuring technology at its disposal - including coordinate measuring machines - to ensure and verify the quality of the components.

Downtimes Avoided

The specialists in Killwangen manufacture a large number of smaller components, for example axles, bolts and toothed gear shafts, on individual standard machines, such as CNC sliding headstock automatic lathes with bar loading magazines, or welded electronic housings and heat exchangers on vertical machining centers. In order to ensure highly productive and economical operation, downtimes must be minimized. These can be caused, for example, by missing or incorrectly prepared tools or by a lack of raw materials. In conjunction with SFS unimarket AG, the contract manufacturers now have a sophisticated material procurement system at their disposal. For smaller turning and milling tools they use the automated tool output Tool24 (Hoffmann Garant). This flexible tool cabinet contains in particular monobloc carbide tools and indexable inserts. The processes for filling, removing and managing the tool output are largely digitalized and automated. To remove tools, machine operators identify themselves with an ID card. On the touch screen, they select the desired tool or insert at the touch of a finger. The drawer opens automatically and closes again automatically after confirmation of removal.

The tool dispensing system software automatically manages stocks and supplies. If (flexible and individually adjustable) minimum quantities are not reached, the system informs the specialists of SFS unimarket online. The experts determine the required quantities via the software and deliver them on time. In this way, they ensure that the contract manufacturer in Killwangen always has sufficient quantities of tools. With the digitalized and automated management of the tools, they make a significant contribution to avoiding machine downtimes.

Digitalized and Automated C-Parts Management

The experts also offer similar management systems for C-parts, for example for personal protective equipment (gloves, hearing protection and the like) and for standard assembly elements such as bolts, screws and lock washers. On the one hand, these systems minimize the amount of work and costs in the logistics chain and, on the other hand, they ensure maximum security during all processes. The automated and digitalized management system rules out shortages. First of all, the experts of SFS unimarket consult users comprehensively about the scope of services. The respective quantities required and to be provided (minimum stock, maximum quantity per individual delivery) are determined individually and can be flexibly adapted to suit requirements. Using SFS unimarket's eLogistiks system, different suppliers can be integrated into the logistics process chain as needed. Invoicing can also be largely automated with the help of digitalized processes. This automated management relieves manufacturing companies of tedious and cumbersome processes in procurement logistics.

They can concentrate fully on their core competence - flexible and productive production of high-quality components. By eliminating or transferring the administrative and logistics activities, they usually work much more economically.

This article was first published by Schweizer MaschinenMarkt

Original by Konrad Mücke / Translation by Alexander Stark

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