Retrofit and maintenance options

Extended service life for storage systems and sawing facilities

In the case of capital goods with long service lives, such as logistics and production facilities for metal processing, a retrofit is very often an economical alternative to a new acquisition. Even with comparatively limited funds, the output, availability and efficiency levels of a facility can be raised to those of a new plant – and KASTO offers its customers the necessary technical and planning support right from the outset.

Many companies are currently unable to realise new investments on the usual scale, due to the coronavirus crisis and the associated slowdown of the global economy. The frequently high acquisition costs in these times of economic uncertainty represent a considerable hurdle, especially in the case of machines and systems with long service lives – even if these machines have been amortised in the long term thanks to performance and efficiency improvements. Companies are also faced with the challenge of safeguarding their competitiveness and ability to deliver in the currently difficult environment – and this is a situation in which outdated technologies can quickly become a risk-laden and expensive problem.

Outdated technology leads to malfunctions
This is particularly evident in storage technology, for example. Automated bar stock and sheet metal storage systems are an indispensable part of intralogistics in most steel trading and metal processing companies. The systems deliver the required goods quickly, efficiently, ergonomically and punctually to the desired location, ensuring a smooth material flow. However, this flow comes to a standstill if the technology is no longer state-of-the-art. Malfunctions and breakdowns become more frequent and the procurement of spare parts and support becomes increasingly difficult. All these factors affect the performance of the storage system – and of the entire process chain as a result.

This is a situation where a retrofit is an economical alternative to a new acquisition. After all, storage systems essentially consist of robust steel parts and solid KASTO machine construction – components which are almost indestructible. “Most of our bar stock and sheet metal storage systems are still in perfect mechanical working order even after 20 or 30 years in use,” explains Alfred Schwörer, Head of the Retrofit division at KASTO Maschinenbau, the storage and sawing technology company with its headquarters in Achern, Germany. This is why KASTO also offers its customers professional modernisation of their existing systems. “Even replacing just a few small components can have a major impact,” says Schwörer.

Components renovated for cutting-edge performance
Among other categories, this includes control and automation technology as well as drives and measuring systems installed in the storage and retrieval machines (SRMs) – so during its retrofitting projects, KASTO normally replaces all the switch cabinets and outdated control units. For example, S5 is often still used in older systems and it is replaced by the state-of-the-art S7. Older DC motors are replaced by more efficient three-phase drives. Replacing drive controllers, sensors and measuring transducers ensures a much higher performance level and improves the energy efficiency of the storage system. New cables and energy supply chains also help to make the power supply to the SRMs safer and more reliable.

Schwörer also considers the replacement of control elements and software to be very advantageous: “We often see older systems that have control panels with buttons and no screens. These are replaced with touchscreens that have a graphical user interface – this is more intuitive for the user and opens up a much wider range of functions.” Users also get a much better overview of their order data and inventories, increasing transparency and reducing the risk of errors. In terms of software, KASTO offers customers modern, modular solutions that make the control and management of all processes in and around the storage facility easier and more efficient – such as the KASTOlogic Warehouse Management System (WMS). As an alternative or as a supplement, the automated storage systems can also be connected to a company’s existing ERP systems via individual interfaces in order to integrate them even better into a continuously controlled material flow.

Focus on safety and occupational health
The topic of safety – including the associated technology – is also playing an increasingly important role. For example, simple photoelectric switches protected employees from injury just a few years ago, but now complete light-beam curtains shield the hazardous areas in the storage facility, automatically switching off the system upon contact. KASTO also brings the old switches up to the latest safety standards within the scope of its retrofit projects, enhancing the storage systems until they comply with all occupational safety requirements. Yet another option is the use of industrial robots. These automated helpers are nowadays being used for an increasing number of tasks in metalworking, such as sorting, deburring and stacking. This allows unmanned operation, ranging from raw materials storage to finished sections – and especially in combined storage/sawing centres.

“In most cases, just one retrofit KASTO performed by our specialists will considerably extend the service life of not only our systems, but those of other manufacturers as well – and users achieve much higher performance levels, improved availability and increased energy and cost efficiency,” says Schwörer. “In the case of sawing machines, especially for larger models and complex systems, modernisation can also bring enormous benefits, such as highly improved cutting performance, longer tool life and an extended range of usage scenarios.”

Regular maintenance is also an important factor, because it ensures that the systems continue to run smoothly, even at high capacity – and of course KASTO also supports its customers in this regard, offering them various solutions matched to their specific requirements. For example, maintenance of the KASTO bar stock and sheet metal storage systems can usually be carried out remotely – and to quickly and easily identify and correct faults and optimise processes, the helpdesk technicians in Achern can connect to the customer’s system online at any time. The KASTO hotline is also available 24/7 to help users with questions and problems. In an emergency, KASTO experts will quickly arrive on site – and spare parts for all current systems are always available.

A virtual view of the storage facility from a distance
KASTO has also pioneered a completely innovative system with its VisualAssistance maintenance concept. At the heart of the system is an interactive app for tablets, smartphones and smart glasses, allowing customers to connect to service staff via video and audio streaming. Users and KASTO technicians share the same field of view in real time. This greatly facilitates mutual understanding and helps to quickly identify individual system components and possible faults. The app also gives KASTO experts the ability to provide visual assistance and to display markers in live video. The customer receives all the necessary information on his augmented reality display, while he is carrying out on-site maintenance or repair work on his saw or storage system. If he is using smart glasses, his hands are free and that also makes his job easier. KASTO service engineers can have a virtual presence on site and can thus guide a customer’s employees accordingly.

“Expensive training courses and costly journeys are often superfluous if the customer has our VisualAssistance system,” says Schwörer. “Users also benefit from minimal downtimes, as well as high availability and productivity levels of their machines and systems.” New technologies like these enable KASTO to provide even more flexible and individualised support to its customers – and this pays off for both sides. “Thanks to the high quality of our products and our comprehensive service, storage system operators can rely on their systems for many years,” says Schwörer. “This creates customer satisfaction – and makes us the first choice when it comes to investing in a new system at some point in the future.”