Total material and data flow control
Tyre factory automation specialist Cimcorp has gradually extended its scope of supply. From supplying its customers with gantry robot-based production buffers, the company has become a total solution supplier and integrator who provides fully automated handling for tyre manufacture.
An integral part of the total solutions are the control systems which take care also of production data management.
As Kai Tuomisaari, the company’s vice president of sales, says, “Better control of the whole process means that more high-quality tyres are produced. Tracing, combined with smaller buffers and 100% availability of components at all process machines, increases the yield dramatically.”
Tuomisaari adds, “Control has always been an area of competence for us. During the past couple of decades, we have gathered a huge amount of experience and know-how in the tyre industry. We soon realized that there was a need for better, more industry-specific control systems in tyre plants and we’ve been responding to that demand ever since.”
As a pioneer in robotics for production and distribution environments, Cimcorp has supplied thousands of gantry and linear robots to clients in more than 40 countries. Over one thousand of them operate in the tyre industry, handling some 1.5 million tyres a day at 60 plants on five continents. Since turning its attention to the tyre sector almost thirty years ago, the company has gradually applied its technology to each step of the tyre production process, with control systems always an integral part of its solutions.
Cimcorp’s automated equipment is able to handle all material flows seamlessly and its control systems ensure precise tracking and full traceability. That’s why Cimcorp has branded its tyre industry solution ‘Dream Factory’.
Some years ago Cimcorp turned its attention beyond the scope of its materials handling automation technologies – gantry robots, monorail transfers, automated guided vehicles, conveyors and automated storage systems – in order to provide control for production machinery in the raw materials and components area of tyre plants. Kai Tuomisaari says, “We realised it was a bold step, but we were actually only responding to the demands of our clients. Originally our control systems were developed purely to run the equipment that we supplied but very often we found that clients wanted us to help them to control their production machines in terms of recipe management and In-Process Verification. As a result,” he continues, “we’ve developed a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) module within our controls platform. By extending our control solution into this initial production stage, we enable complete traceability for tyres from raw materials right through to the shipping dock, providing manufacturers with a wealth of relevant information about every single tyre.”
In the raw materials and component processing area, as in all areas of a tyre-manufacturing plant, control of the material flow is key. Cimcorp’s MES is designed to provide full control through recipe management – including recipe creation, amendment, uploading, archiving and validation – workstation management, material movement management and production simulation. By logging material batches, operators and processing times, the MES provides complete component data management for the tyre-building process. It also ensures integration of the process machines with the host system, such as SAP, and In-Process Verification (IPV) to check that the right raw materials, components or products arrive at each processing station. Through real-time inventories, reports and alerts, the MES ensures complete traceability of raw materials and components. With rapid and efficient handling of raw materials and 100% component availability, manufacturers benefit from higher throughput to the tyre-building machines. What’s more, the enhanced information on raw material requirements and processing allows manufacturers to keep lower stock levels, which in turn require less space and free up capital for other uses. Plus, of course, the MES adds more vital data to the information profile of each individual tyre, providing comprehensive tracking and tracing information.
The MES works alongside other modules in the Cimcorp controls platform to ensure that all logistics processes in a tyre factory are optimized. The entire material flow is controlled by Cimcorp’s Warehouse Control System (WCS), while the tracing of production data, recipe management and reporting are taken care of by Cimcorp’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Together, the systems control all automated equipment and take care of key functions such as receiving product from upstream processes, routing of tyres, sorting of tyres by SKU (Stock-Keeping Unit), palletization, storage and order picking.
After leaving the raw materials and components area, products enter the green tyre processing area, where the Cimcorp controls platform keeps an optimal buffer of green tyres between the building machines and the curing presses for maximum space efficiency. Next, in the curing area, integration of the green tyre buffer and the transfer systems results in 100% tyre availability at the curing presses to ensure maximum press utilization. Tyres then move into the finishing area, where buffering and sorting operations are controlled to maintain the FIFO (First In, First Out) protocol.
Next is the palletizing area, where the control system supervises the robotic loading of tyres horizontally, vertically or in a rick-rack pattern to achieve optimum space utilization for each tyre type. In the storage area, the WCS of Cimcorp’s controls platform keeps track of all loads, whether the warehouse is automated (served by stacker cranes) or manual (served by forklift trucks). Finally, in the shipping area, the Cimcorp controls platform ensures just-in-time, error-free picking and rapid dispatch.
(Appeared on December 2017/January 2018 issue of Tyre Asia)