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Fastems - The Complete Automation Package
Fastems - The Complete Automation Package

Fastems - The Complete Automation Package

Added to MTDCNC by Fastems on 02 January 2016

Automation is undoubtedly creating a buzz around the industry with more manufacturers looking at opportunities to reduce lead times and labour costs whilst creating  a sustainable production environment that can improve quality consistency and above all, provide maximum machine uptime.


For many manufacturers, whether its OEM's, Tier 1 suppliers or the wider subcontract market, there is a common perception that a new, highly productive machine tool will drastically improve productivity. Depending upon the existing situation, this may be true. But, did you realise that a standard vertical machining centre achieves an average utilisation rate of 20%. For those investing in twin pallet machine tools that are manned continuously for 3 shifts over 6 days a week, you may think you are at the top of your game. Wrong! With all things considered, this level of investment rarely achieves a machine utilisation rate beyond the 45 to 50% mark. Now, consider adding a Fastems automation system and upping your machine utilisation rate to over 90%. As you add more machines, the return on investment can be staggering. 


So, why would you automate?


A common perception is that automation is for production runs with little flexibility. This couldn't be further from the truth, as Fastems UK Sales Manager, Mr Nick Statham comments: "Typically a Fastems solution can be created for manufacturers producing batches of 15 to 20 parts often referred to as high mix, low volume. Of course it is also suited for higher production volumes. The key to the system is creating flexibility that also eliminates repetitive set-ups with pallet configurations that can remain in the FMS for the production life of a multitude of component types."


From a cost perspective, automation is widely acknowledged to reduce the cost per component for end users. This is why a number of high end machine tool manufacturers are now offering automation solutions in the guise of robot loading or pallet pools. However, automation systems from machine tool vendors generally supply one or two machine tools of the same make. Thus they cannot be configured to work with machines and control systems from alternate suppliers, and ERP or CAD/CAM connectivity for example might be limited. Typically in many pallet pools, fixtures and fittings still require changeovers, which reduce machine uptime and demand operator intervention.


In contrast, a Fastems system can be created based upon either pallet or part management with one FMS system supplying a single machine tool or a multitude of machines. Furthermore, by storing the pallets with their fixture configurations in a compact FMS unit, continual changeovers are virtually eliminated. As repeat setups and first off inspections cease, spindle time increases enormously and labour input is drastically reduced. Keeping fixtures in a more compact continually running cell replaces the need for external storage for those fixtures and fittings. Raw material can also be similarly stored and recalled on a JIT basis. Taking automation further, Fastems can integrate CMM's, cleaning and deburring machines and robotic handling. This allows the customer to load a billet and unload the complete part.


These days, recruiting and retaining skilled labour is becoming more and more of a challenge. Flexible manufacturing systems are never ill, take no holidays, work nights / weekends on demand and reduce health and safety concerns. Reduced labour costs make a significant contribution to FMS payback.


Concluding on why all manufacturers can automate, Mr Statham says: "Our entry level FPC system is a 'plug and play' configuration that is easy to use, user friendly and delivers integration with all machine tool types. Our data storage system provides complete traceability and process reliability with features that are beyond the possibilities of alternate systems. We can configure systems to work with the smallest of pallet dimensions through to 25 ton capacity pallets. When combined with 35 years of automation expertise and the recent acquisition of a bespoke robotic and gantry solutions division, Fastems can deliver turnkey systems for lathes and machining centres. Not only can we deliver a greater range of automation, but our ROI rate averages less than 2 years. How else can you achieve machine utilisation rates in the region of 90%."

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