Refurbishing instead of scrapping: Retrofitting saves time and money
AM-Automation brings Roto Frank’s long goods warehouse up to the state of the art
(Offenau, August 2019) Discarding the old and replacing it with the new: In storage technology, this is not always the best solution. Instead, as a specialist in intralogistics systems, AM-Automation relies on tailor-made combinations of retrofits and new builds. Hardware and software are brought up to the state of the art without interrupting operational processes to any great extent. The most recent example is the refurbishment of the long goods warehouse at Roto Frank AG in Leinfelden-Echterdingen.
Annual turnover of around 660 million euros in 2018, 4,900 employees, 18 production sites around the world: while Roto Frank Holding AG’s name recognition among the general public is rather limited, its products have long been a household name in specialist circles. WirtschaftsWoche” recently named the company, which was founded in 1935 and is headquartered in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, as the “World Market Leader 2018” in the “Window and Door Hardware Systems” segment. The turn/tilt hardware systems developed by the Window and Door Technology Division ensure that building elements can be reliably opened and closed. And thanks to perfectly organized workflows, the Roof System Technology division can manufacture residential roof windows in individual dimensions from batch size 1 and deliver them within a few days.
Retreading during operation
Roto Frank is committed to “inventiveness and technological progress in the field of building industry system components”. Smooth material flows and modern logistics systems form the basis for this. The logistics center at the main window and door technology plant in Leinfelden-Echterdingen has been gradually brought up to the latest state of the art over the past few years. It is the hub for 28 other logistics distribution centers for Roto Frank window and door technology around the world. Roto Frank commissioned AM-Automation GmbH, based in Offenau near Heilbronn, to implement the project. As a specialist for individual, tailor-made complete solutions in the field of warehouse technology, AM-Automation modernized the technically outdated high-bay warehouse in a first step. In response to changes in the flow of goods and order structures, the aim was to increase the availability of the system and bring intralogistics into line with the changed requirements. In the pallet warehouse, the storage and retrieval machines were equipped with state-of-the-art electrical control systems and the drive technology of the trolleys and hoists was completely overhauled. In a second step, AM-Automation implemented a small parts warehouse in a four-aisle version at Roto Frank’s request, with space for 23,000 containers measuring 600 x 400 x 320 mm. The bins are stored and retrieved by four fully automatic storage and retrieval machines, whose drive modules are connected to the chassis via standardized interfaces and can be easily replaced if necessary to increase performance. Following the successful completion of the two projects with a combination of retrofit and new construction, AM-Automation also took on the refurbishment of the long goods warehouse in a third step.
New motors improve energy efficiency
A two-aisle rack with separate operating devices and upstream conveyor technology: AM-Automation brought the long goods warehouse at Roto Frank Leinfelden up to the latest intralogistics standard within a very short time and without disrupting ongoing operations, while retaining the existing structures. The refurbishment concept focused on the control technology of the long goods conveyor system and the implementation of new PLC programs. The first step was to update the control hardware. The integration of the software was tested extensively over several weekends without operations until the old PLC program could finally be discarded. The AM-Automation team then set about refurbishing the distribution trolleys. The drive technology of the travel and lifting units as well as the telescopic forks have been optimized. The distribution trolleys were then equipped with new, robust and wear-free asynchronous motors from SEW. The conversion has resulted in significant improvements in the energy efficiency of the overall system.
Remote maintenance reduces service costs
The conversion phase of the distribution trolleys also provided a good opportunity to replace the existing stationary control cabinets with new hardware that travels on the distribution trolley. The controllers now used for the travel drive and telescopic fork are Profibus-capable and also have IPOS positioning modules. Another special feature is the slip-free motor encoder mounted on the shaft of the travel and telescopic fork drive for speed feedback. By calculating the optimum travel curve from the target and actual values of the respective axis, this design allows a high degree of flexibility for any adjustments to changing operating conditions. Finally, the existing distance measuring device was replaced with laser distance measuring devices. Leuze AMS rangefinders are virtually wear-free and require minimal maintenance during operation. In addition, the PLC control of the distribution trolleys is connected to the IT network of Roto Frank Leinfelden via TCP/IP. If required, service technicians from AM-Automation can access the system via remote maintenance, install updates to the PLC software or analyze any faults in the operating devices. This minimizes the cost of having a service technician on site.
Retain proven technology wherever possible
“At first glance, it seems easier to dispose of existing technology and replace it with modern components,” says AM project manager Saverio Carella. In practice, however, in most cases this represents a considerable intervention in operational processes: “The use of completely new technology often requires conversions that cannot be carried out during ongoing operations,” says Carella, “and the associated training of operating personnel costs additional time and money.” AM-Automation therefore pursues the approach of reducing the overall cost of modernization to a minimum by incorporating existing systems that have proven themselves in practice – and only replacing the old with the new if there is no other option.
The concept is well received by customers. On this basis, AM-Automation was responsible for the renovation of the logistics center of Knauf Gips KG in Iphofen, brought the intralogistics of Rhenus Logistik in Minden up to scratch and optimized the material flow at Schweizer Group Plattenhardt KG in Hattenhofen. As far as the efficiency of the respective intralogistics is concerned, comprehensively refurbished systems can certainly keep up with the performance of completely new systems. What’s more, the investment required for retrofit projects is usually significantly lower – and operations can continue almost without a hitch despite the conversion.