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The High Road to Low-Volume Production

If you make consistent use of the potentials of digitalization you can, among many other things, program upcoming orders while you’re still processing the current one. This lets you maximize your machine runtimes and thereby increase your productivity. Using traditional programming methods such as teaching, you have to wait until the end of the manufacturing process before you can reprogram e.g. your welding robots, meaning that the machine cannot be used productively in the interim. Simulation software can eliminate this handicap and boost your production capacity.

Project Details

Stickel is an award-winning Swabian metal forming business that employs about 100 staff. For many years, the company has built prototypes and small production runs for clients like Porsche AG. Stickel’s core competencies include joining processes, but also maximum flexibility and change management. Upon request, the company can take on the entire value chain, from the design stage to the finished component.

 

The Porsche supplier not only manufactures prototypes for future models and small-volume production, but also individual replacement parts for older models. These can be highly detailed, e.g. regarding the individual welding seams. Plenty of manual labor is involved as well.

Stickel already had an established machine park before deciding to acquire FASTSUITE. For our purposes, the Kuka facility is relevant, because this was already being used for the joining technologies – welding, gluing and roller hemming. However, the setup always had to sit idle while the next order was being programmed via teaching. Particularly in prototype and small-batch manufacture, as in Stickel’s case, this drastically increases setup costs – and therefore unit costs.

Project Objectives & Difficulties

Single-component manufacturing and small-volume production have one thing in common: The use of simulation software can significantly reduce machine loads because the engineers can already program upcoming orders while the current one is still being processed. In large-scale serial production, machines are allocated to a certain task for weeks or months, and therefore it doesn’t much matter if there has to be some downtime in preparation for the next series. But for a business that constantly deals with small production volumes, it certainly does. This is why Stickel needs the perfect combination of in-house technical expertise and production-boosting simulation software. 

Why simulate – what can FASTSUITE do?

Simulation means that plant/machine layouts can already be reconciled before the hardware is even installed at the plant. For legacy machinery and existing buildings, layout simulation is worthwhile when machines are being replaced, to ensure that things keep running smoothly – machines being understood to include robots. Unlike e.g. a fixed processing center, which merely has to be accessible, robots can freely move horizontally and vertically and manipulate workpieces while they do so. 
A layout that incorporates CAD data from the machines is highly valuable to ongoing production, because then the CAD data of the workpieces ordered by the client can easily be reconciled with the CAD data from the machines.

This is supplemented by the identification of potential savings. Robot simulation ensures that the workpieces do not collide with other objects, and it makes it easy to reprogram the robots – even while they are busy at a different task. 

"Roller hemming, spot welding and gluing can all be perfectly automated with FASTSUITE.'  In all three technologies, manual programming incl. teaching is highly complex and demands maximum concentration. By merging the CAD data for the workpiece with the installation data, FASTSUITE can assume these tasks that previously had to be done manually.'

Confirmed Results

FASTSUITE quality benefits 

No matter whether we’re looking at typical “Stickel activities” (hemming, gluing, welding) or at other tasks – compared to teaching, simulation offers clear quality benefits. Teaching is always a manual process, and that makes it fundamentally error-prone.

Therefore, the top managers at Stickel GmbH, CEO Matthias Stickel and Project Manager Tobias Gericke, say: “We can offer our clients the best products and services only if we have the best, highest-performing software. Because we produce low volumes, we have to be very efficient, flexible and fast – and that’s what FASTSTUITE gives us.”

The above-mentioned FASTSUITE-based efficiency offers specific benefits for gluing processes, where the technology is mature and the application is well known. In this instance, the benefit of the simulation software is the speed at which the data records exported to the glue bead.

Stickel GmbH

Stickel GmbH is a tech business from Swabia that specializes in sheet metal forming. Established in 1986, the company worked with highly demanding clients such as Porsche, growing in size to now almost 100 employees. This growth never resulted from high-volume orders, but rather from a steady increase in orders for prototype and spare part engineering, always in small to medium volumes.

Main challenges

  • Stickel takes in a large number of highly diverse orders for very small lot sizes, which meant high machine downtimes due to reprogramming. The company wanted to significantly reduce these downtimes.

Key to Success

  • FASTSUITE simulation software by CENIT AG
  • one-off transfer of machine data via CAD (alternatively: measurement)
  • transfer of CAD data for the respective workpieces
  • based on this information: reprogramming while machines remain active
  • use of FASTSUITE as a platform for 3 different technologies: roller hemming, spot welding and gluing.

Results

  • better competitiveness and higher customer satisfaction
  • reduced machine downtime, permitting higher capacity
  • enhanced flexibility because orders can now be processed “ad hoc”
  • improved punctuality because the time-consuming and unpredictable process of manual teaching is eliminated
  • presumably, lower reject rates
Contact person:

Matthias Stickel, CEO

Contact person:

Tobias Gericke, Project Manager

CATEGORIES & TAGS
Success StoriesGlueing/SealingSpot WeldingRoller HemmingAutomotive Body in WhiteWelding EquipmentDigital TwinOffline ProgrammingLayout Building
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