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Stock put away four times faster and picked in half the time with Kasto
Stock put away four times faster and picked in half the time with Kasto

Stock put away four times faster and picked in half the time with Kasto

Added to MTDCNC by Kasto on 10 September 2014

Storage and picking of aluminium extrusion has been automated at Universal Aluminium Systems, Bristol, resulting in greater stockholding capacity and faster handling.  Availability of material ex-stock has been extended and turnaround of orders is quicker, allowing the firm to enhance the just-in-time service it offers to customers.

The improvement follows installation of a 1,000-location Unicompact computer-controlled storage and retrieval system from Kasto, linked to new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, at a cost of £1 million.

Jarl Severn, General Manager of Universal Aluminium Systems, said 'The investment started paying for itself from day one, as we need fewer staff to operate the automated system.

'After a few years, the cost of the store will be amortised and future use of the system will bring in additional profit for our company.'

Some benefits of the system were apparent while the project was still on the drawing board.  In one third of the space previously taken up by conventional A-frame racks that held 300 tons of material, 800 tonnes can now be held in the Unicompact honeycomb system.  Between 600 and 700 tonnes is currently in store at any given time, leaving room for additional varieties of extrusion to be stocked.

After the Unicompact became operational, further advantages were immediately noticed.  When a delivery of extrusion is received from the Cyprus factory of Universal Aluminium Systems’ parent group, Muskita, it takes just two hours to crane the material off the soft-top container onto the conveyors feeding the automated store.

Previously, unloading the container by lift truck, manhandling the extrusion through three-foot gangways between the rows of A-frames and stacking the material vertically took a full eight-hour shift.

As a consequence, there are fewer health and safety issues and much less risk of the material being damaged during handling.

Universal Aluminium Systems’ main business is supply of extrusion to fabricators around the UK, but it also manufactures in-house four categories of product: windows and doors, curtain walling, shop fronts and signs.  A typical order placed on the company, either from an external customer or internally, might comprise 10 types of extrusion plus accessories such as handles, which continue to be stored traditionally and handled manually.

Commented Gary Darlington, Head of Production at the Bristol plant, 'Picking of such an order from the Kasto store, under instruction from the ERP system, is at least twice as fast as locating the material in the former A-frames and retrieving it manually.

'Operators simply follow on-screen instructions to pick the required amount of material from each cassette that is presented to them by the gantry-type crane, which picks the next cassette and puts away the previous one in a single cycle to save time.'

The Unicompact system stores hundreds of different types of extrusion in lengths ranging from three to 6.5 metres.  The computer control knows the content of each cassette, in which material is stored horizontally in bundles that are unpacked only when needed, avoiding unnecessary handling.  When material is removed, the computer automatically knows how many extrusions have been taken out by the difference in cassette weight.

An advanced algorithm within the Kasto controller analyses the following day's orders at the end of each 6.00 am to 10.00 pm double shift, and swaps cassettes that will be required with others closer to the two input / output conveyors.

Knowing at all times to such a high level of accuracy the amount and type of materials in the store makes stocktaking a half-hour job, complete with automatic print-out of the inventory.  This represents a further big saving for Universal Aluminium Systems, as in the past the plant had to be shut down for an entire week, twice a year, for manual stocktaking.  While predictable customer demand could be accommodated in advance, it was very difficult to respond to unexpected, urgent orders and there was a risk of business being lost.

In conclusion, Mr Severn said that the £11 million-turnover stockholding and fabrication facility has, by virtue of the recent investment, positioned itself to increase market share in what is a growing industry sector.  With the merits of being a 100 per cent recyclable material as well as combining light weight and strength, aluminium will be adopted more and more in a wide variety of applications.  It is therefore not difficult to see the potential for growth that Mr Severn is keen to exploit.

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