Always stay in motion
“Mechanics in Motion” – this is the slogan of Mechtop AG from Wangen near Olten in Switzerland. The company specialises in systems, components and services, mainly for the food industry. The individual orders differ greatly, so a high degree of flexibility is the order of the day. Mechtop recently gained much higher levels of efficiency and performance in its production and intralogistics by purchasing two automatic tower storage systems and a band saw machine from KASTO.
The demands on the food production industry are extremely high, with strict hygiene standards, fierce international competition and time and cost pressure to match. Manufacturers must be able to deliver their products reliably and in perfect quality at all times; otherwise customers will quickly lose confidence in a brand. It follows that the machines and systems used must also meet special requirements. Malfunctions and system failures can lead to expensive downtimes – and this is unacceptable, especially when handling perishable food.
The Swiss company is very familiar with the conditions in the industry. Founded in 1995 as a one-man business, the company now has 50 employees and specialises in plant & special machine construction, pipe & steam-line construction, metal & steel construction, tank & apparatus construction and conveyor technology. Most of Mechtop’s customers are from the food industry. The company also provides support for its customers in installation, maintenance & servicing and spare parts supply. “Our motto is ‘Mechanics in Motion’ – and it refers to both our product range and our competent and flexible service staff,” explains Dominic Felice, a member of the Management Board.
Production schedules are often tight
In addition to the team that works for and with Mechtop’s customers throughout Switzerland, the company’s machinery is also an important mainstay for its continued success. “We mainly manufacture one-offs, as well as small and very small batches,” explains Felice. “This is often the case where spare parts are needed urgently, for instance.” To meet these demands, the company needs powerful machines that are versatile enough to efficiently deal with a range of usage scenarios – and the same applies to Mechtop’s internal logistics: “We try to make every process as efficient as possible, from the delivery of raw materials to the shipment of our finished products,” says Felice.
The most commonly used materials at Mechtop are stainless steels, since the finished systems and components must be suitable for use in hygiene-sensitive food production. The company processes sheet metal and bar stock such as rods, tubes and profiles. In the past, both of these types were stored in manually operated cantilever storage facilities. “However, this was extremely time-consuming and laborious,” says Felice. “The employees had to first of all search for the required articles and then painstakingly remove them by hand or forklift.” Mechtop therefore decided to modernise and automate its storage technology – and the company opted for the compact KASTOecostore and UNITOWER tower storage systems.
KASTO’s solid reputation was already well known
The sawing and storage technology specialist company based in Achern in southern Germany had been a household name to the Mechtop decision makers for some time. “KASTO has an exceptionally good reputation and its products are synonymous with reliability and high quality,” says Felice, explaining the decision. “We looked at various potential solutions together with KASTO and then selected the most suitable one.” Both storage facilities are space-saving tower storage systems with a loading height specially designed to meet customer requirements. The UNITOWER is equipped with 108 storage cassettes for holding bar stock up to six metres in length. The cassettes are lined with aluminium for the storage of the rust-free materials. The KASTOecostore has 26 pallet storage shelves with space for sheets with formats up to 3 x 1.5 metres.
The two tower storage systems are attached to the outer wall of Mechtop’s production hall. The shelf block of the UNITOWER was designed with a substructure to which the roof and façade panels were attached. The system was installed in a pit 3 metres in depth, enabling optimal space utilisation despite the officially limited building height. The bar stock storage system has an external goods delivery station which can be directly accessed by the delivery trucks. Sheets are brought into the hall through a roll-up door and transferred to the internal storage and retrieval stations. A hoisting device then automatically brings the pallets and cassettes to the correct storage compartment and makes the required articles available in line with the “goods to man” principle. An additional hoisting device such as a forklift truck is not required to retrieve the system pallets. This ensures short access times and an ergonomic workflow.
More space and a better overview
“The automatic storage systems offer us a whole range of advantages,” explains Felice. “We’ve gained a lot of valuable space, a better general overview of our inventory and more control over our stocks – and we can also work more productively and much more efficiently.” The tower storage systems are extremely robust and reliable – and on the very rare occasion when a malfunction does occur, the KASTO experts in Achern can usually repair it quickly and easily via remote maintenance. “As a rule, however, the system runs flawlessly – not least thanks to its touch display and simple operation,” says Felice. “Inventory management is done in SAP. Our two storage facilities are not connected to the SAP system. KASTO would also have made this possible, but given the diversity of our orders and the small batch sizes, this step didn’t seem necessary to us.”
The two KASTO storage systems have been in operation at Mechtop since the beginning of 2020. The company also invested in a KASTOmicut A 2.6 automatic band saw. It is designed to efficiently process cut-to-length and mitre sections of tubes, profiles and solid materials. With a cutting range of up to 260 millimetres in diameter and infinitely adjustable mitre angles from -45 to +60 degrees, the swivelling-frame band saw offers users enough scope to cut a wide range of different components. The intelligent additional equipment also enables largely unmanned operation: “We mainly use the KASTOmicut to process parts in small and smallest batches up to about 20 pieces,” explains Felice. “We particularly benefit from the automatic material feed, because it means that the saw can process batch orders like this independently.” The sawn sections are then transported via a chute to a bin where they can be collected by the employees.
A totally convincing, complete package
The blade tension of the KASTOmicut is electrically monitored and can be continuously adjusted by means of a manual ratchet. Hydraulically actuated, continuous horizontal vices enable optimised workpiece clamping and make it possible to separate short residual pieces. An integrated sensor automatically detects the end of the workpiece, so no manual pre-settings are necessary. The heavy cast iron saw frame also ensures high-quality cutting – even in the case of materials that are difficult to cut. The KASTOmicut is extremely precise, with a cutting accuracy of +/- 0.1 mm per 100 mm of material height. The shortest possible cutting length is only 6 mm – and with a residual length of 30 mm for individual offcuts (and 40 mm for automatic operation) Mechtop can make maximum use of their material. “KASTO has really supplied us with a complete package that makes our daily work much easier,” says Felice.
The management at Mechtop is also completely satisfied with the cooperation of the sawing and storage technology specialist company. “The short reaction times are certainly a major advantage – KASTO’s Swiss branch in Rheinfelden is only a few kilometres away,” he explains. “Service technicians and spare parts are with us in no time at all when we need them.” This is a unique selling point with which Mechtop also impresses its customers. “KASTO solutions help us to respond flexibly and quickly to their requirements and solve their problems – and that’s exactly what our ‘Mechanics in Motion’ slogan is meant to convey.”